It has taken me literally months to listen to this comprehensive biography of Roosevelt by Jean Edward Smith, whose Eisenhower biography was everything I had wanted and more. This book is a very good overview of FDR's life and presidency, and illuminated lot of corners of his life that I did not know about. The coverage of Roosevelt's political career leading up to the White House and of the Democratic political conventions every four years thereafter was very good, and something I didn't know anything about previously. Similarly, the explanation of the various New Deal programs and the politics that FDR contended with in his first two terms was excellent.
Where the book started coming up short was, not surprisingly, in trying to cover the central figure around which the United States' involvement in World War II pivoted. But t in a general biography here is precious little room for detailed discussion of Roosevelt's involvement in global diplomacy during the war, much less the military side of things . Much of the insights from Mantle of Command were missing here, as well as from other recent books I've read detailing Roosevelt's management of his military chiefs. However, this is to be expected – almost everything that Roosevelt did almost every day in the White House his final four or five years is worth covering, and there is simply no way that the back end of a biography can do it justice.
Even so, I thought that the coverage of Roosevelt's death was completely inadequate. The details of his condition and treatment from the time he collapsed until he died were not present, and with the exception of one vignette of American POWs in Germany observing a moment of silence when they learned of his death, there was no discussion whatsoever of the effect of his death or any attempt to sum up what his life and presidency had met for America and the world. That was a big surprise to me, as I was expecting some sort of summarizing of what Roosevelt had done, as well as what he had failed to do, and the consequences of both. Did his death have an effect on the prosecution of the war or the outcome of the peace that would have followed? What were the the consequences to his military and domestic policies – and where there are things that he did not do but had intended to that would have changed these? The book did make clear that the political operatives that worked with Roosevelt to select Missouri Sen. Harry Truman as his running mate in 1944 understood that they were picking a president, but was there any indication (probably not) that FDR considered this, and how did this affect their selection? Maybe this will be in the Truman biography that I need to get back to listening to.
I have not yet watched all of the PBS biography on the Roosevelts, so I can't contrast this to that, but I would recommend it as the single best overall biography I have read of FDR. It just needs substantial fleshing out were interested in a specific aspect of his White House years, because it provides precious little detail on the subject. Fortunately there are magnificent treatments of those aspects by Goodwin and others.