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An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 | [Robert Dallek]

An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963

An Unfinished Life is the first authoritative single-volume life of John F. Kennedy to be written by a historian in nearly four decades. Drawing upon firsthand sources, freshly unearthed documents, and never-before-opened archives, prizewinning historian Robert Dallek reveals more than we ever knew about Jack Kennedy forever changing the way we think about his life, his presidency, and his legacy.
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Publisher's Summary

An Unfinished Life describes the birth of the Kennedy dynasty, the complexity of Jack's early years, and the mixture of adulation and resentment that tangled his relationships with his mother, Rose, and his father, Joseph. Forced into the shadow of his older brother, Joe, Jack struggled to find a place for himself until World War II, when he became a national hero and launched his career. Dallek reveals for the first time the full story of Kennedy's wartime actions and the true details of how Joe was killed, opening the door to Jack's ascendancy.

Here is the gripping story of Jack's transformation from an awkward speaker into a brilliant politician with irresistible charm. The audiobook carries us from Jack's work as a senator from Massachusetts, through the fiercely contested 1960 campaign against Nixon, and takes us on to the White House itself.

An Unfinished Life also discloses for the very first time that Kennedy was far sicker than we ever knew. While laboring to present an image of robust good health, Kennedy was secretly in and out of hospitals through-out his life, so ill that he was administered last rites on several different occasions. Here is a vivid portrait of a man who, because he knew how close he was to death, lived as much as he could - sometimes hurting others in the process.

Never shying away from Kennedy's weaknesses, Dallek also brilliantly explores his strengths. The result is a portrait of a bold, brave, human Kennedy, once again a hero.

©2003 Robert Dallek; (P)2003 Time Warner AudioBooks. A division of the AOL Time Warner Book Group.

What the Critics Say

"Sets the historical record straight...pitch-perfect prose...hands-down the best biography of JFK...a truly remarkable achievement." (Douglas Brinkley, author of The Unfinished Presidency)
"In this riveting tour de force...Dallek delivers what will most assuredly become the benchmark JFK biography for this generation...[He] is to be thanked for providing this thoroughly researched, well-sourced, responsible and readable biography that has for so long been wanting in Kennedy scholarship." (Publishers Weekly)
"...riveting and well-documented biography." (New Yorker)
"Richard McGonagle brings the president to life, mimicking the famous accents so well that his renditions of Kennedy speeches compare favorably to Kennedy's own renderings." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

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3.8 (113 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 06-24-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Great Biography - Neccessarily Disappointing"

    Any biography of JFK is bound to be unsatisfying for the reason that is the title of this great biography, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963. The abrupt nature of JFK's assassination in 1963 makes the hope and promise of his administration so much more frustrating for its loss.

    Dallek provides an exhaustive, if fleeting in the abridgement, review of Kennedy's life, from the family dynamics that preceded his birth to the day he died. He reaffirms all of Kennedy's failings and celebrates is triumphs.

    Narration provided by Richard McGonagle is very good, who when speaking lines by Kennedy, does so with the distinctive Massachusetts accent. This was actually annoying to me at first but I must say, grew on me to where I came to expect it as the book went on.

    I would very much like the opportunity to hear the unabridged version of this book but doubt if it would provide any more answers to the unanswered questions of why?

    Dallek deliberately avoids, to his credit but to my disappointment, any speculation about conspiracy theories with regard to Kennedy's death.

    Most amazing to me about this book were the revelations about Kennedy's unbelieveable medical problems and the lengths he and those around him went to conceal them and treat them.

    I highly recommend this book. Kennedy, whether you believe he was a great president or not, was a peacemaker and filled the world with hope for better days.

    27 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Ball 07-02-06
    James Ball 07-02-06 Member Since 2004
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    "Dry as a bone"

    Dallek's overview of the Kennedy legacy is a political, not personal one. He stays away from pretty much everything that made Kennedy a compelling figure, focusing on a cut-and-dried political biography. One wishes he'd linger a bit on Kennedy's persona, charm and wit, but he instead plows full steam ahead with a "just the facts" account of JFK's brief White House tenure.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruth C. 03-05-04
    Ruth C. 03-05-04

    I love to learn... a blessing and a curse as they say... If I loved making money as much as I love to learn, I would be able to buy more books right now! I love Audible.... (and a long term fan of Amazon)... actually joined in 1999 when hardly no one was shopping on the internet. I have always enjoyed someone telling me a good story.

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    "Remembering Kennedy"

    My 8 year old received an assignment to do a biography on a famous person. Of course looking to Mom for direction I search my memory for a name and a face of a person I would consider a hero...ah John Kennedy. I listened to the book and gave my daughter tibbits, and then at the end Robert Dallek answered a nagging question for me... Why would I choose Kennedy? (I barely knew him, and I was only three years old when he died.) I enjoyed this book...and my daughter talked about him like an uncle.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean 01-19-04
    Sean 01-19-04
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    "A Great Biography"

    Dallek was my professor at UCLA and I read the book before listening to the audo - a great book, readable and compelling. Dallek illuminates how JFK's illnesses were a significant force in shaping his character for the better and for the worse. He documents in great detail some of the most frightening moments in the cold war, political machinations and intrigue, the early days of the civil rights movements and how JFK and the political establishment reacted to this new reality. There is just so much here - there are passages that will have people hitting "rewind" to play again. A great book!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Francisca 09-01-03
    Francisca 09-01-03
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    "Good informative book"

    Overall I really enjoyed this book and felt as if I came away knowing more about the time in which Kennedy lived.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Damon 08-29-03
    Damon 08-29-03
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    "An unfinished nap"

    I can't listen to this book for any length of time. It should be illegal to listen to this while driving. It will put you to sleep. The narration is monotone. The content is mediocre. It seems that rather than a biography on JFK it is a history of the events during his presidency. You do not get much of a feel for who JFK was or how he made his decisions. You simply get a history lesson. One of the worst books and biographies I have read. This is in stark contrast to this Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, which I just completed. It has excellent narration and you feel like you now Roosevelt.

    7 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ed 02-02-13
    Ed 02-02-13
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    "Kennedy Demythologized!"
    What made the experience of listening to An Unfinished Life the most enjoyable?

    This biography does not contain any strong bias towards, or away from, the Kennedy mystique. Instead, Dallek writes the facts and lets the reader determine the level of appreciation, or non-appreciation, they have for JFK. The author also uses the most up-to-date information on the life of Kennedy and weaves it seamlessly into the existing facts. A wonderful book.


    What other book might you compare An Unfinished Life to and why?

    I draw a comparison to the book, "Eisenhower: In War and Peace" by Jean Edward Smith. Both books provide a wonderful narrative of the President from youth until death. Doing so without ever straying far from facts and balanced perspective. Both books are also highly enjoyable to listen (read) to - outstanding narration. Also, the books hold the readers interest in all facets of the Presidents' lives.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Kennedy: Perseverance and Pain. ... I cannot believe that with all his health issues that Kennedy was able to preside over the nation in an effective manner.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roy 09-02-11
    Roy 09-02-11

    I am a professional photographer, a motorcyclist, and an avid reader and listener. I enjoy history, business books and

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    "Just nthe facts"

    As some other reviewers said, this narrative is just the facts, the details of Kennedy's political carrier for the most part, with about half devoted to his presidential years. Good but not great. Narrator Richard McGonagle is very good in his narration and doing Kennedy's Boston accent without going over the top, He was better then the book was.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joubert 10-28-06
    Joubert 10-28-06
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    "nice but incomplete"

    an abridged version doe snto really make sense to discover the life of JFK. We hear so much about is health, but little about his US policies.
    Good for those just wishing to discover the man quickly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 06-03-04
    Robert 06-03-04
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    "Why do the great people die young"

    What an amazing life. What an amazing person. The detail of JFk's life will educate, and inspire you. Learn not well publised facts about his youth, his sickness and disabilities. How he approached the negotiating table with russian leaders. Off coarse the insight to the missle crisis and much, much more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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