Review: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

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Theodore Roosevelt

Edmund Morris writes a masterful account of the events that shaped the man who became the 26th President of the United States, in this first book in a trilogy.

Theodore Roosevelt lived what he called “the strenuous life”. One cannot read The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (1979) without gaining an appreciation for how strenuous the events of his life were. Edmund Morris uses extensive research and combines it with an engaging writing style that takes the reader on a great adventure through the life of Roosevelt during the last four decades of the 19th Century.

A Engaging Read

The book almost reads like a novel as the accounts are written with entertaining dialog and riveting events. And in the midst of all these events, a man is forged through triumphs and tragedy, enthusiams and despairs, opportunities and obstacles into one of the most powerful, polarizing, and peculiar personalities ever to reside in the oval office.

Extensive Research Provides Fascinating Narratives

Morris provides the reader with an almost non-stop account of Roosevelt’s life from birth to the day he is to learn that he will succeed the assassinated William McKinley as President. One can’t help but be amazed at the depth of narrative as the events are told from the perspective of the many persons involved. Thanks to the media of the day, the memoirs of those who knew Roosevelt, and extensive writings by the subject, the book is rich with details of how the early life of the 26th President prepared him for what was ahead.

Not only are the personal experiences of Theodore’s life shared, but the reader gets glimpses into conversations and events that he never experienced which affected his life. Such fascinating dialog includes a private meeting of Republican party members regarding Theodore’s apparent nomination as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate alongside McKinley. Senator Mark Hanna, the Republican Chairman who despised Roosevelt, was livid with the inevitable situation which he suddenly had no control over and blurted out, “Don’t any of you realize that there’s only one life between this madman and the Presidency?”

Triumphs and Tragedies, Strengths and Weaknesses

Roosevelt is painted with all his strengths and faults, so it’s difficult to claim that Morris is partisan in any way for his portrayal of the subject. From his peculiar behavior in the New York state house as a young representative, to his strong mayoral leadership which dealt a blow to police corruption in New York City, he is shown for his eccentricities which made him a lightning rod for praise or scorn. His tragic loss of his first wife and his mother on the same day eventually leads him to spend time out west where he gains an appreciation for the rugged life of a cowboy. His love for country, duty and honor as one of the “Rough Riders” during the Spanish-American War turns him into an American hero, winning praise from the average American.

First Book in a Trilogy

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is so full of adventure and detail that one cannot help but be amazed at the depth of Roosevelt’s experiences. And yet, this book is only the first in Morris’es Roosevelt trilogy series. The story continues in Theodore Rex (2001) which chronicles his years in the White House. The third book, Colonel Roosevelt (2010), features Roosevelt’s post-presidency and latter years.

Movie Project in the Works

Reports are that a movie based on The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is in the works and will star Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Theodore Roosevelt. No official title of the film or release date have been announced.