Too Close to the Sun: Growing Up in the Shadow of my Grandparents, Franklin and Eleanor by Curtis Roosevelt.
Curtis Roosevelt was the eldest grandson of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. As a toddler his mother moved into the White House with Curtis and his sister Anna. For much of FDR’s time as President, Curtis called the White House home.
Curtis went on to paint a picture of a privileged childhood during the lean years of the Great Depression the country was going through. Curtis and his Anna were nicknamed Buzzie and Sistie. They became celebrities and crowds often called out to them when they appeared in public. Life on the surface appeared to be grand for the children but their lives were lived in a fishbowl. They must have good manners at all times, they must not get dirty and they were frequently left with servants and denied many of the pleasures of a "normal" childhood. Curtis did love to spend time with his grandfather. He loved his grandmother but he did not paint her as an affectionate person but rather as someone to be on guard around. FDR and Eleanor offered the only stability in the children’s lives while their mother divorced their father and moved away for a time without the children and then reentered their lives, married for the 2nd time (after the book has ended, she married a 3rd time) and had a third child. Numerous times in the book, Mr. Curtis Roosevelt comments on the unhappiness of his childhood.
When I began reading this book, I expected a more in depth look at the time. What the reality is, this book is more of a childhood memoir. I should have realized that what Curtis wrote about occurred during his childhood and what he wrote of has some distortion due to his age at the time the events occurred and also because of the many years that have passed. My opinion of Eleanor has gone down somewhat after reading this book. For some reason, maybe because of her dowdy appearance, I expected her to be a more hands on, affectionate motherly-type person. In case you’re wondering, Curtis’s original surname was not Roosevelt—his middle name was. As result of his mother’s and grandmother’s influence, he dropped his original surname of Dall.
Would I recommend this book? Depends. I would not recommend it to someone wanting to learn about the lean years of the Great Depression and World War II because there are merely superficial glimpses of those times in this book. However, I would recommend it to anyone who has children in the public’s eye. This book paints a vivid picture of a dysfunctional family. Maybe I shouldn’t have had such high expectations from this book—I paid $1 for it at a Dollar Tree store.