American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt

Written by Stephanie Marie Thornton
Review by Arleigh Ordoyne

Alice Roosevelt Longworth—the name itself is enough to capture the attention of readers interested in fictional biographies. Thornton’s gem of a telling journeys from the Adirondack Mountains to the White House to the Far East and gives a thorough account of the political landscape of early 20th century America. Spanning eight decades, it covers Alice’s outrageous antics as a teenager and young adult, followed by her troubled family life and complicated friendships. The heart of her relationship woes begins with her father, President Theodore Roosevelt, who had lost his wife and mother on the very same day—left only with newborn baby Alice. After her father’s second marriage, she was the half-sibling of the family and always the black sheep. She feels like an outsider, and one can surmise her non-conforming personality grew from the state of her upbringing, and her father’s emotional coping method of keeping her at an arm’s length. Alice’s strained relationship with her cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt, seems a central theme as the story repeatedly circles back to scenes between the women, with Alice comparing herself to her saintly rival.

Character dynamics aren’t the only offering from this tome; Edwardian societal rules followed by the New England elite are also of interest, as well as a thought-provoking look at the media when it consisted of only newspapers, magazines, and the occasional black-and-white photograph—so different from journalism today, yet alike in some ways. For those not versed in the political scene in the 1910s, it is both enlightening and entertaining. Readers who enjoy sweeping family sagas will devour this novel with its feisty protagonist and host of well-known historical figures. It comes highly recommended—especially those looking for a fresh viewpoint of the much-beloved President Theodore Roosevelt.