Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn

Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn

With so much delicious fiction hot off the presses, I am not sure what attracted me to Susan Quinn’s new biography of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and AP Reporter Lorena Hickock. It wasn’t their snazzy ensembles, it wasn’t the subtitle “The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady;”  maybe it was my love of the era they lived in…  I began to see the title on lists of recommended new biographies, flashed back to long lazy summers when my mom spent her evenings entrenched in biographies of strong female change makers-Dorothy Day, for example-and thought I’d put Eleanor and Hick on hold for her.  As I flipped through the pages while unpacking a Baker and Taylor order, I decided to put it on hold for me first.  So glad I did!

“Love Affair” in the title lends itself to juicy People magazine level details about two thinking women in long sleeves and long skirts.  This biography really isn’t that.  Quinn relates the life stories of Hickock and Roosevelt from the lens of how they each helped strengthen and craft the other’s life.  Much of the research came from letters between the two; Hickcock was the keeper of the letters and it is assumed she discarded many of the ones she wrote.  Either way, we get a picture of a friendship during a time of economic depression and war, when women’s roles were changing but were only beginning to reflect the opportunities available today.

What I like:  this was very readable-I devoured it like a novel, I learned something, and I took an empowering albeit altruistic message away about finding and following one’s passion: write about what you care about, educate others, see the whole person and capitalize on their good.  Roosevelt says she never wanted to be First Lady, but she took full advantage of her role. She wasn’t perfect, and many will disagree with her choices and her politics, but she was, in my opinion, dedicated to the American people and she was a visionary.  I was interested in the relationship the Roosevelts had with the press, and of course the similarities and differences with today’s ability to instantaneously report news.  I appreciated learning more about Hickock and how she rose in the ranks in the newspaper world.

I like to find something in a biography that changes me, and I feel certain any reader will find just such an opportunity in Eleanor and Hick.  Reserve a copy at the library, or, if you are related to me and receive books for Christmas, wait until the new year.