Bookmarks Issue: 

Theodore Roosevelt After the White House

A-WhenTrumpetsCallWhen the 26th American President was completing his second term in 1908, he did everything to ensure a smooth transition for his handpicked successor, William Howard Taft. Yet he disliked Taft’s direction for the country, and, relatively young, Roosevelt found the sudden diminishment of attention and power deeply distressing. Mellow retirement was not in the cards for this swashbuckling actor on the world’s stage. He distracted himself with long bloody safaris and behind-the-scenes meddling until he could stand it no longer, and he resurfaced as an opponent to Taft in the heated 1912 election. When Trumpets Call offers a portrait of a complex leader at a watershed moment in U.S. history.
Simon & Schuster. 495 pages. $30.
ISBN: 0684864770

Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"O’Toole, whose earlier book on Henry Adams and his friends was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, sees the constant theme of Roosevelt’s life as the interplay between his love of power and his urge to do good." Jean Dubail

South FL Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"O’Toole’s book stands out because she focuses not on Theodore Rex, as Edmund Morris did … but instead on the bombastic Theodore Ex, itching for another fight, any fight that would take him back to the Oval Office." Lane Kelley

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Patricia O’Toole has focused entirely on his life after he left the presidency. In doing so, she adds greatly to our understanding of Theodore Roosevelt’s character, values, and his legacy."
Terry Hartle

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"O’Toole, a skilled storyteller, deftly handles the Roosevelt-Taft dissolution: the cheap insults, the false starts at reconciliation and, finally, the contest for the White House in 1912. … What his final decade reveals—and O’Toole mostly overlooks—is how powerlessness became, for Roosevelt, more corrosive, more soul-polluting, than power."
Jeff Shesol

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Panting to keep up with her subject, O’Toole fills her pages with lots of detail but can’t quite explain the furious internal engine that drove Roosevelt." Bob Hoover

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"Patricia O’Toole tells the story of his last decade competently and sometimes perceptively, but her prose is mostly lifeless and her narrative gifts are limited. … It is a useful examination of a neglected period in Roosevelt’s colorful life, but there’s all too little color in it." Jonathan Yardley

Critical Summary

O’Toole, a 1991 Pulitzer finalist for The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends 1880-1918, wrote this biography of Roosevelt’s later years in the shadow of Edmund Morris, who has already written two volumes on this President and will reportedly cover the same period as O’Toole did in his final installment. Many critics think that O’Toole fills an important historical gap by telling a complicated story with flair and wisely avoiding too much detail on the dramatic 1912 election that is covered in many other books. Others found O’Toole’s narrative style lackluster and her conclusions watered down compared to other authoritative books on the subject, including David McCullough’s biography (see below). History fans may want to read all three authors’ coverage for the full picture of our swaggering ex-President.

Supplemental Reading

Mornings on Horseback The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt | David McCullough (1981): Award Star National Book Award for Biography. Focusing on his family life and the era’s larger social history, McCullough follows Roosevelt from childhood to adulthood.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt | Edmund Morris (1979): Award Star Pulitzer Prize. In this definitive biography, Morris explores Roosevelt’s contradictory genius and rise to power.

Theodore Rex | Edmund Morris (2001): In this New York Times bestseller, Morris recounts "King Theodore’s" forging of an American empire and governance of a nation between 1901 and 1909.