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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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  • Mary
  • Tampa, FL, United States
  • 06-04-13

Knowing Joseph Kennedy

Where does The Patriarch rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's a very good biography. Not the most exciting non-fiction audiobook I've listened to, but still very enjoyable and informative.

What did you like best about this story?

I liked best the author's analysis outsiders' opinion of Joe Kennedy was the best part. He gives both the central character's opinions, but also those of outsiders, citing writings and interviews and even speculating based on actions and knowledge of Kennedy's contemporaries.

What does Malcolm Hillgartner bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I enjoyed his use of appropriate accents when reading quotes by different people in the book. It was wide-ranging, but particularly pronounced in the Bostonian and English accents.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

This book encourages thought and pondering of the people in the book as well as the times they lived in. I cannot say it was one I would have enjoyed in a single sitting, as the facts presented are a lot to digest.

Any additional comments?

I think it's the best way to read this kind of book. The sentences of this particular author are very long, and in some places the topic is a little dry. An audio book is ideal for these sorts of books in which you want to get the facts and the story, but don't want to have to sit and read it.

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  • Richard
  • Fair Lawn, NJ, United States
  • 05-11-13

The must read book to understand the Kennedys

Several biographies on Jack and Ted led me to want to know more about their father Joe, which brought me to Nasaw's biography, an extraordinary biography of a fascinating man whose influence on his children can not be understated. Kudos to Nasaw whose extensive research allows him to present both a deep dive into this historically important man, but also an unusually unbiased discussion. So whilst I came away with strong view that this was an evil man, I was equally struck with immense respect for his deeply felt principles, his unflinching dedication to them, his extraordinary accomplishments, and the tragedies he endured.

But most of all was the insights into this family that helped me to understand his children in ways that multiple biographies on each of them failed to convey. Joe was more than a force. He was an industrialist success story to rival Carnegie. He was as involved in his family as he was in his business, with tactics in each that inspire and revolt. His devotion and dysfunction in his marriage is extraordinary, perhaps an exageration of his era that is hard to comprehend today. That he had so many children develop such extraordinary lives and be such a force for this country is a reflection of this aptly titled book--the remarkable life and turbulent times of Joe Kennedy.

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  • margot
  • new york, NY, United States
  • 03-18-13

Much better than it had to be

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.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Vincent
  • Lansdowne, PA, United States
  • 02-19-13

Great listen

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Patriarch?

For me it was probably when the family was notified of sister Kathleens death.

What about Malcolm Hillgartner’s performance did you like?

Everything. His changing accents for different characters was excellent.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Probably. But for me it was better to do it a couple of chapters at a time.

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Just Okay

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

It wasn't always that interesting, so some of my time was well-spent other times I just started day dreaming because it didn't hold my interest.

Has The Patriarch turned you off from other books in this genre?

somewhat

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

No, I have not listened to him before.

Was The Patriarch worth the listening time?

No.

Any additional comments?

If there's an abridged version, go for that.

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  • Peter
  • United States
  • 02-01-13

The man behind the myth

If you could sum up The Patriarch in three words, what would they be?

great story of a man with great highs and lows in his life

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Patriarch?

The death of Joe Jr

Which character – as performed by Malcolm Hillgartner – was your favorite?

The subject

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

The Man behind the myth

Any additional comments?

The reader was excellenT

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  • Noreen
  • United States
  • 01-31-13

A true modern tragedy. Fascinating to listen to.

What made the experience of listening to The Patriarch the most enjoyable?

Understanding more about lives that are part of our common history

Who was your favorite character and why?

Rose.

What about Malcolm Hillgartner’s performance did you like?

Clear to listen to with that wonderful Boston inflection. He made the experience feel personal.

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

A true American tragedy.

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  • Roberta
  • HALF MOON BAY, CA, United States
  • 01-02-13

Very well done, but a bit slow at times

I have always been interested in the Kennedys and found this book to be fascinating, however the author goes into so much detail that at times I found myself skipping a few parts. I'm also interested in history, so believe me, it had to be a LOT of detail to turn me off a bit.

Otherwise extremely well done, I'd recommend it to my friends.

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  • Ryan
  • San Francisco, CA, United States
  • 12-20-12

Entertaining and well worth the listen

Where does The Patriarch rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I would rank it right near the top with Steve Jobs Biography.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Patriarch?

The entire portion of the book related to the beginning of World War II when Joe Kennedy was Ambassador to England.

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

No

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Nothing extreme, but a very satisfied listening experience.

Any additional comments?

No

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Unvarnished Biography and a Peek into Our History

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, because this book tells a compelling story. The truth about Joseph P. Kennedy may not be as scandalous as the myths that abound, but this honest appraisal of the man is even more engaging because we learn not only of this one person but also share his views and insights into the world of the early and middle 20th century.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Patriarch?

The section dealing with Kennedy's venture into motion pictures. i would venture that very few people today appreciate Kennedy's importance as a movie mogul and how his influence was the catalyst that turned Hollywood into a modern motion picture industry.

What about Malcolm Hillgartner’s performance did you like?

He reads well and keeps the attention of the listener. He is excellent at changing his accent to approximate the voice of the speaker when reading quotations.