My review of Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I am posting it today for non-crime Monday with their permission. Hope you enjoy.
First line: "Eleanor Roosevelt hoped no one would come to her funeral."
Throughout history numerous families have occupied the public eye in American politics, but none before the Roosevelts--and none since--stood on opposing sides of the party divide. Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer examine how this philosophical chasm affected the relationship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, cousins and two of the twentieth century's most influential women in Washington.
Alice, the oldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, and Eleanor, the oldest of Theodore's brother Elliot, grew up together, close friends as well as first cousins. Despite their friendship and family ties, the two Roosevelts possessed polar opposite personalities. So as Alice followed her father and later her husband into the realm of conservative Republican politics and Eleanor shared her husband's liberal Democratic beliefs, battle lines were drawn between the two women for an ideological war that lasted decades.
Using historical documentation, as well as personal insights from family and friends, Peyser and Dwyer artfully piece together this epic rivalry they describe as "plucked from not one but two classic story lines: daughters competing for the patriarch's love [Eleanor was often said to be more like Teddy than Alice], and the good girl versus the bad girl."
Hissing Cousins is a comprehensive, compassionately non-partisan, often humorous, narrative of a complex family with insecurities, secrets and passions. The issues that drove the Roosevelts read like a modern US current events list--foreign policy, gender rights, civil rights, national health and unemployment insurance--making their story relevant as well as fascinatingly informative and larcenously captivating.
Hissing Cousins is available in hardcover from Nan A. Talese (9780385536011) and as an unabridged audio (9781101913949), narrated by Suzanne Toren, from Random House Audio.