Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship share button
Jon Meacham
Genre Biography
Format Paperback
Dimensions 5.17 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 1.08 (d)
Pages 512
Publisher Random House Publishing Group
Publication Date October 2004
ISBN 9780812972825
Book ISBN 10 0812972821
About Book

The most complete portrait ever drawn of the complex emotional connection between two of history’s towering leaders

Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were the greatest leaders of “the Greatest Generation.” In Franklin and Winston, Jon Meacham explores the fascinating relationship between the two men who piloted the free world to victory in World War II. It was a crucial friendship, and a unique one—a president and a prime minister spending enormous amounts of time together (113 days during the war) and exchanging nearly two thousand messages. Amid cocktails, cigarettes, and cigars, they met, often secretly, in places as far-flung as Washington, Hyde Park, Casablanca, and Teheran, talking to each other of war, politics, the burden of command, their health, their wives, and their children.

Born in the nineteenth century and molders of the twentieth and twenty-first, Roosevelt and Churchill had much in common. Sons of the elite, students of history, politicians of the first rank, they savored power. In their own time both men were underestimated, dismissed as arrogant, and faced skeptics and haters in their own nations—yet both magnificently rose to the central challenges of the twentieth century. Theirs was a kind of love story, with an emotional Churchill courting an elusive Roosevelt. The British prime minister, who rallied his nation in its darkest hour, standing alone against Adolf Hitler, was always somewhat insecure about his place in FDR’s affections—which was the way Roosevelt wanted it. A man of secrets, FDR liked to keep people off balance, including his wife, Eleanor, his White House aides—and Winston Churchill.

Confronting tyranny and terror, Roosevelt and Churchill built a victorious alliance amid cataclysmic events and occasionally conflicting interests. Franklin and Winston is also the story of their marriages and their families, two clans caught up in the most sweeping global conflict in history.

Meacham’s new sources—including unpublished letters of FDR’s great secret love, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, the papers of Pamela Churchill Harriman, and interviews with the few surviving people who were in FDR and Churchill’s joint company—shed fresh light on the characters of both men as he engagingly chronicles the hours in which they decided the course of the struggle.

Hitler brought them together; later in the war, they drifted apart, but even in the autumn of their alliance, the pull of affection was always there. Charting the personal drama behind the discussions of strategy and statecraft, Meacham has written the definitive account of the most remarkable friendship of the modern age.


From Barnes & Noble

The World War II friendship of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill spanned an ocean and transformed the globe. Jon Meacham, Newsweek's managing editor, has crafted a superbly researched biography about the human roots of the wartime Anglo-American alliance. Drawing on original interviews and previously untapped archival research, he explains how the two leaders' shared backgrounds and spontaneous friendship shaped the progress and resolution of the war.

The New York Times

Meacham, the managing editor of Newsweek, uses several previously unavailable sources, including the World War II papers of Pamela Churchill Harriman, then married to Churchill's son, Randolph, and he interviewed a number of those still living who spent time in the two men's company. Written with grace and conviction, his portrait of this epic friendship focuses on the elements of character and fortitude that bonded these two leaders together, and ''proves it does matter who is in power at critical points.'' — David Walton

The New Yorker

After their first meeting, in 1918, Roosevelt said that Churchill was “a stinker”; Churchill didn’t even remember Roosevelt. But by their next exchange, in 1939, Churchill was convinced that Britain’s future depended on getting Roosevelt to like him. Meacham’s engaging account argues that personal bonds between leaders are crucial to international politics. He draws heavily on diaries and letters to describe a complicated courtship and, at times, seems amazed at what Winston is willing to put up with from Franklin. Churchill paints a landscape for the President, sings for him, and agonizes when his notes go unanswered; Roosevelt teases him in front of Stalin, criticizes him to reporters, and eventually breaks his heart with a diverging vision of the postwar world. But Churchill never gives up, and he later recalled, “No lover ever studied the whims of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt.”

The Washington Post

With its keen, nuanced analysis and sympathetic insight, Meacham's book makes for intense and compelling reading. His achievement is memorable, even considering the innate drama of his topic. His heroes are charismatic giants, paladins in a titanic struggle between good and evil, and masters of the English language and the theatric moment. — Daniel Davidson

Publishers Weekly

Drawing on interviews with surviving staffers and other previously untapped sources, Newsweek managing editor Meacham delves into the deep and complicated relationship between the two men who may very well have been the most powerful men on the planet during the most threatening times of the 20th century. FDR and Churchill spent much time together (a total of 113 days), planning, eating, smoking and drinking many a cocktail, and Meacham fleshes out the men behind the public faces, revealing the intricacies and the sometimes raw opportunism of their complicated relationship. Veteran actor and audiobook reader Cariou's authoritative presentation is rock solid and gripping. His gravelly baritone is transformed into Roosevelt's calm yet commanding voice one minute, and Churchill's more bombastic British accent the next (though occasionally, his enthusiastic Churchill is reminiscent of the sinister aliens Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons). All in all, he does a wonderful job of capturing not only the friendship between the two men, but also the tensions that build as the world turns to war. Simultaneous release with the Random hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 4, 2003). (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal

The managing editor of Newsweek describes a complex relationship. With the first serial to Newsweek, of course. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

Admiring, even romantic chronicle of the Anglo-American leaders’ warm personal relationship before and during WWII. Newsweek managing editor Meacham (ed., Voices in Our Blood: America’s Best on the Civil Rights Movement, 2000) begins in Yalta, 1945, at a time he much later characterizes as "the true twilight" of the friendship between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The president is not well—distracted, even—and the prime minister is feeling both his and his former empire’s diminished status as the war winds to its end, with Uncle Joe Stalin and the Soviet Union on the rise. The author then goes back to 1918 and the duo’s first meeting (not recalled fondly by FDR) before swiftly, almost breathlessly moving forward to 1939 and the Nazi invasion of Poland. What ensues between the two Greatest Leaders of the Greatest Generation is much like a courtship. Churchill pursued the US’s might (albeit mostly potential at the time), seeing Roosevelt as the reluctant bride-to-be with an enviable dowry of ships, planes, materiel, and men. But FDR, though eight years Winston’s junior, was no naïve ingénue. As Meacham ably shows, he was capable of Clintonesque compartmentalizing, courting Stalin while dissembling artfully to maintain Churchill’s affections. (Assessing Roosevelt’s actual extramarital affairs, Meacham assures us that the president was interested more in romance than in sex.) Roosevelt also managed to disguise the effects of his polio and to win an unprecedented four US presidential elections. Meacham quotes liberally from the two men’s vast correspondence (some 2,000 letters) and from eyewitnesses to the 113 days they spent together. He has clearly mastered hismaterial, though he does not comment on the long-standing controversy over whether either leader knew in advance about Pearl Harbor and concludes with the un-startling statement that the world would be different had Hitler won. A pleasant walk over very familiar ground. (b&w photos throughout.)