A Lively Read of a Lively Woman
Reviewed in the United States on March 15, 2019
Historical fiction is an accessible and pleasant way to get acquainted with people and events in history. I was a history major, and enjoy learning about historical figures in this entertaining way.
Alice Roosevelt was a woman who fascinates, but you're not sure why. My grandmother, who was a young woman, when Alice was making history, used to mention Alice to me as someone she liked to read about along with Jenny Churchill and Anne Lindbergh.
This book reveals why Alice captured the headlines in her time. Beautiful, headstrong, fashionable, influential - thought of as an American Princess. Daughter of an American President and wife to the Speaker of the House. Alice is someone you could have envied.
This book shows why you might not. Her life began in tragedy when her young mother died a few days after giving birth to Alice, and Teddy Roosevelt handed off Alice to his sister for two years while he fled west. When Teddy remarried, Alice never felt part of the new family.
Alice felt in the way, abandoned, unloved most of her life. This book depicts how Alice might have felt about all of the circumstances of her life and is written in the first person.
Tragedy upon tragedy entered her life: alcoholism, infidelity, childlessness for many years, early deaths of family members, lack of options for independent and strong women among others. I won't describe them in detail, as it's more interesting to read, I think, not knowing what to expect.
Alice's voice in this book is young, girlish, a trifle spoiled and self-centered. As the author consulted Alice's autobiography, it's probably pretty accurate. At the end of the book, the author tells about the few liberties she took with the facts to streamline the book. None of them were consequential.
While Alice had some advantages such as being able to live in the White House, taking a few exotic trips, being a celebrity in her time when celebrities were few, being able to meet the leading figures of the day, living in D.C. and the summer house in New York, there were disadvantages, too. Disadvantages such as not attending college and having career options, marrying young and not making the wisest choice perhaps because of immaturity.
What I enjoyed about this book were the historical insights it offered such as Alice calling FDR a "feather duster" and seeing him as rather weak and not presidential who used T.R.'s last name to ingratiate himself with the public although he was very different than T.R. and of a different political party.
The book also highlights Teddy Roosevelt as a father, and the other historical figures around him: Taft, Harding, Woodrow Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt and others.
I didn't realize that Teddy Roosevelt was shot giving a speech once, and talked for another 90 minutes before going to the hospital! It was enlightening to learn that the Longworth Building in D.C. was named after Alice Roosevelt's husband Nick Longworth.
The book is equally plot-driven and character-driven. Alice's force of personality comes through its pages. While Alice is fairly likable, you realize because of her sheltered life, she seems shallow compared to women who have had to survive by their own wits. Alice always seemed to have money to go where she wanted and do what she wanted. The author didn't get into how exactly Alice supported herself through the years.
Who paid for the houses and the trips?
But as this book covers about 90 years of Alice Roosevelt's life, it doesn't go deep. The events come at you fast and furious. It primarily revolves around Alice's relationships - her love life, family and friends. It's an interior view of the woman.
It is easy to read, and a fun introduction to Alice Roosevelt if you're looking for something novel-like which chronicles the events of Alice's life and her reaction to them.
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