I've always liked Eleanor Roosevelt because, unlike a lot of other first ladies, even in my dude-heavy history textbooks she was portrayed as having an identity beyond political wifehood. Why, then, did I decide to read a biography that is specifically not about Eleanor on her own, but instead focuses her relationship with that other important person she was married to? A biography that doesn't even list her name first? To be totally honest, I was convinced by the advertising. I heard a review that hailed Hazel Rowley's Franklin and Eleanor as a "crackling" account of the Roosevelts' "radical" marriage, written by an author who'd detailed other unconventional partnerships in the past. I never knew much about the Roosevelts' marriage before I read this book (other than the fact that the two were distant cousins who were both related in some way to Teddy) so the idea that their relationship was somehow "radical" was intriguing to me.
The reality of the book is a little disappointing.
The most boring exhibit I ever saw in any of the Washington, DC Smithsonian museums was, without a doubt, the gowns of the First Ladies. Oh, how I could not have cared less. But my mother preened over them like she'd just found some rare bird egg sitting under her window. Helen Taft? Grace Coolidge? Elizabeth Monroe? I didn't care about their dresses, and I certainly didn't know who they were as women. On top of that, weren't First Ladies just... housewives in a really nice house?