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Publisher's Summary

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

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert
  • CHICAGO, IL, United States
  • 03-29-13

Wonderfully entertaining and engaging

Would you consider the audio edition of The Patriarch to be better than the print version?

Yes, the narration was a plus to the story.

What other book might you compare The Patriarch to and why?

It's hard to say as it was somewhat contemporary, thus one feels like you were around at the time. On the other hand we got wonderful insights on a man who functioned in this world we think we know. You can't compare it to a biography of say Churchill; more like Howard Hughes. (Who was that, Irving?0

Have you listened to any of Malcolm Hillgartner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Don't recall, but this was great.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

What moved me? It's not that sort of narrative. You feel like you are getting an inside look at a very complicated man and his relationships with his family, friends and his own conscious. I could not wait to get back to it.

Any additional comments?

Nassau did a lot of homework and it shows. He is an excellent writer. The subtlety used to draw out very difficult topics and subjects gives it credibility. You find yourself impatiently waiting to get to the next stage of his life.
The narrator did a masterful job and added to the enjoyment of this book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Neil
  • GLENDORA, CA, United States
  • 02-17-13

Interesting but sounds sanitized

Any additional comments?

The many ways he made his money are well covered. So are his politics and misadventures as Ambassador to England. His strengths as a father are nicely recounted. His understandable frustration with the Catholic Church's failure to support JFK's 1960 candidacy is the biggest revelation.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Commissioned by the Kennedy Family...

Any additional comments?

It should be noted by anyone who is interested in this book that the author mentions in the beginning that he was commissioned by the Kennedy family to write this book. That information was not in the description, so I was a bit disappointed to find that out after I had already purchased this book.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • MP
  • 04-17-13

Magnificent

One of the best - and most gripping - biographies I have ever read. The reader is excellent - even his approximation of various accents is good and not distracting.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Give the accents a rest

I can't emphasize how annoying it was that the narrator insisted on aping the accents of Joseph Kennedy and of his family.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Nick
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 09-23-13

Interesting, but could use some editing.

Incredibly interesting overall, but at 31 hours it could really use some editing. Also, I kept getting the impression that this was the white-washed version of his life - the version his family would have no objections to.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Catherine
  • Bryn Mawr, PA, United States
  • 03-31-13

brilliant biography and history

This long and detailed biography of the patriarch of one of America's most famous families takes a listener into many fascinating segments of 20th century history. Along the way, a listener becomes familiear not only with the Kennedy family and children, but with other 20th century luminaries such as Gloria Swanson and, most brilliantly, FDR and his entourage. Many myths about the patriarch are dispelled and unknown facets of his life and those with whom he interacted are elucidated. The section during which Joseph P. was Ambassador to Great Britain is brilliantly told, tremendously gripping, and always shadowed by the listener's knowledge of the fate of the patriarch's oldest son. Wonderfully narrated even if the assumed accents are occasionally annoying. HIGHLY recommended for anyone interested in 20th century history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Aliso Viejo, CA, United States
  • 02-01-13

Nasaw and Hillgartner at their very best.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Patriarch to be better than the print version?

I loved this book but then I'm a history junkie. Didn't hurt that I have read biographies on FDR and Truman as well. Long but then I didn't want it to end. Nasaw dispelled some of the Joe Kennedy myths for me and now I am even more impressed with this incredibly productive man and his family. Additionally, Hillgartner's reading was excellent. Loved the accents.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • Delray Beach, FL, United States
  • 01-29-18

Too clean. Too long. Distracting narration.

Kennedy used blunt and colorful language but you won't hear any of it in this book. I was very disappointed - I wanted to know who this man was. Instead I heard a cleaned up version of Joe Kennedy and his family. The fact that the family paid for this book to be written is admitted in the book's prologue. So don't expect anything too revealing.
Badly in need of editing. Way too many communications, letters and newspaper articles that should have been reduced in number and summarized. 31 hours is 10 hours too long.
The narrator's attempt at accents fails throughout. Comically at times.

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History

This is a great story about the Kennedy family’s trials and tribulations. I learned many things from this story.