Celebrated historian David Nasaw brings to life the story of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, in this, the first and only biography based on unrestricted and exclusive access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy - whose life spanned the First World War, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Cold War - was the patriarch of America’s greatest political dynasty. The father of President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert and Edward Kennedy, 'Joe' Kennedy was an indomitable and elusive figure whose dreams of advancement for his nine children were matched only by his extraordinary personal ambition and shrewd financial skills. Trained as a banker, Kennedy was also a Hollywood mogul, a stock-exchange savant, a shipyard manager, the founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and ambassador to London during the Battle of Britain. Though his incredible life encompasses the very heart of the American century, Joseph Kennedy has remained shrouded in rumor and prejudice for decades.
Drawing on never-before-published material from archives on three continents, David Nasaw - the renowned biographer of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst - unearths a man far more complicated than the popular portrait. Was Kennedy an appeaser and isolationist, an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer, a stock swindler, a bootlegger, and a colleague of mobsters? Did he push his second son into politics and then buy his elections for him? Why did he have his daughter Rosemary lobotomized? Why did he oppose the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and American assistance to the French in Vietnam? What was his relationship to J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI? How did he influence his son’s politics and policies in the White House?
In this groundbreaking biography, Nasaw ignores the tired old answers surrounding Kennedy, starting from scratch to discover the truth behind this misunderstood man.
Though far from a saint, Joseph Kennedy in many ways exemplifies the best in American political, economic, and social life. His rags-to-riches story is one of exclusion and quiet discrimination overcome by entrepreneurship, ingenuity, and unshakable endurance. Kennedy’s story deserves to be told in full, with no holds barred, and Nasaw’s magnificent The Patriarch is the first book to do so.
©2012 David Nasaw (P)2012 Penguin Audio
A very well researched page-turner, with lots of fascinating details about Joseph Kennedy and the world in which he lived. I enjoyed it immensely.
I cannot complain about Nasaw's writing: he is generous and understanding. I liked Joe Kennedy going in, and he didn't suffer much on the way. Nasaw disposes of the "bootlegger" lie handily; it is too bad he had to bother with that at all. A little more on the Hollywood years would have been appreciated here, but there is only so much you can squeeze into a fat biography.
My reservations are mainly about the narration, which does not seem to have suffered any decent editor's fine hand. The narrator does not know what he is talking about sometimes, continually pronouncing the Astors' Cliveden House as Clyve-den (it's 'Clivdin'); he also repeatedly mispronounces the name Cadogan (as in the Irish surname, the peer and the multiple placenames in London) as Ca-dough-gin when it is of course Ca-duggin. He turns Noroton, Connecticut into Norritin (rather than 'Nor-O-tin'). And so on. These are not minor quibbles. If one is going to speak of the 'Cliveden Set' many times, one should at least know how to pronounce it.
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