You know, sometimes you just expect too much from a book. Okay, I guess I expect too much from a book far too often, but that's another story for another day. The book in question this time is Colonel Roosevelt.
Colonel Roosevelt is the final part of Edmund Morris's Roosevelt trilogy. I read the second book, Theodore Rex, which covers TR's presidency, and enjoyed it so much that I was very excited when the third part was published last year (oddly, in the intervening years, I never felt compelled to read the first book, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. I really should someday). When expectations are high, though, disappointment is often around the corner.
There is nothing wrong with this book. Nothing. There is no reason why anyone would not find it very readable and informative. The only problem I had was that I could not stop comparing it to other books. One was Theodore Rex, and the other was River of Doubt, by Candice Millard. The latter, about Roosevelt's ill-fated journey down an unexplored tributary of the Amazon River, was my favorite book of 2009 (?). But Morris concentrates mostly on Roosevelt's earlier, successful African journey and only goes through the basics of the South American trip. This actually makes sense--he cites Millard's books in the notes, and probably thought, "Why should I spend a copious amount of time retelling this story when there is already this wonderful book about it and I have so many other things in TR's life to get to?" I guess my real problem with Colonel Roosevelt was that I loved River of Doubt so much, well, I just wanted to read that again.
There certainly is enormous value in this book. I was surprised at how reluctant TR was about his last hurrah presidential campaign; I always thought he charged into it like that bull moose, but he really was dragged in because of a frustrated sense from a sector of his fellow Republicans that he was the only one who could save the country from Democrats--and Taft. The African journey is interesting (despite what I've said in the past, disaster exploration stories are of course better than smooth-sailing exploration stories). Morris writes well and the book is obviously the product of much detailed research. But you can't deny that it is not nearly as fun to experience the decline of the fierce Roosevelt lion as it is to watch him stride about and roar.