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Editorial Reviews

With family connections as his starting point, former Arizona Secretary of State and scholar at the Kennedy Library Mahoney probes the intriguing relationship between Kennedy brothers "cool" Jack and "hot tempered" Bobb to provide a new perspective to a well-studied slice of American history. Their mutual devotion, as well as their loyalty to family patriarch Joseph, is explored with a serious, somber yet vibrant reading by Peter Altschuler and offers an engaging look at an iconic family as well as a persuasive take on the tumultuous 1960s: what led up to the era and how it continues to influence events of today.

Publisher's Summary

Books about the Kennedys are legion. Yet missing until now has been the exploration of the bond between Jack and Bobby, and the part that it played in their rise and fall. Eight years apart in age, they were wildly different in temperament and sensibility. Jack was the born leader—charismatic, ironic, capable of extraordinary growth and reach, yet also pathologically reckless. Bobby was the fearless, hardworking Boy Scout—unafraid of dirty work and ruthless about protecting his brother and destroying their enemies. Jack, it was said, was the first Irish Brahman, Bobby the last Irish Puritan.

As Mahoney demonstrates with brilliant clarity in this impeccably documented, magisterial book, the Kennedys lived their days of power in dangerous, trackless territory. The revolution in Cuba had created a poisonous cauldron of pro- and anti-Castro forces, the CIA, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, and the Mafia. Mahoney gives us Jack and Bobby in all their hubris and humanity, youthfulness and fatalism. Here is American history as it unfolds. The Kennedy Brothers is a fresh and masterful account of the men whose legacy continues to hold the American imagination. (Originally published under the title Sons and Brothers.)

Richard D. Mahoney is Kennedy Scholar Emeritus of the University of Massachusetts. He is an expert on international economics and foreign policy. He is the author of two histories of the Kennedy administration, and was the Democratic secretary of state and acting governor of Arizona. He lives in Phoenix.

©1999, 2011 Richard D. Mahoney (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A different view of Camelot

I have been looking for a balanced history of the time of the Kennedy brothers for a long time. Although I was too young to vote in 1960 when John Kennedy ran for President, I was old enough to be serving in the US military so I remember the Presidential campaign and his Presidency very well. And, like most people who were adults at the time, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about his assassination in Dallas, Texas as well as the assassination of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, California.

I thought that histories of the Kennedy Presidency written shortly after the assassinations of John and Robert tended to lack objectivity and to be more paeans of praise than real histories and that those written during the 1980s tended to be revisionist and overly critical focusing on conspiracy theories, long on innuendo but short on facts. I bought this book because I felt that perhaps the 40+ years since the assassinations was enough time for historians to have gained the necessary objectivity to view the events of the period more dispassionately and write in a more balanced fashion.

This book centers on the relationship of the brothers during their time in office and especially during the time of John's Presidency. The central idea of the book, as described in the introduction, is that Robert's actions as Attorney General led directly to the events in Dallas and his brother's death. To describe the events and their linkages to the assassination the book covers the details of John's Presidency in a good deal of detail and, for me, that seems to be one of the main issues with the Audible version. Meetings between mafia Dons, labor leaders, high level US government officials, Soviet officials, Cuban exiles and the like are described and quotes from these meetings are used liberally. While the events and the quotes may well be accurate, the Audible reader is given little information concerning the source of the quotes. Perhaps there are footnotes in the print version of this book but nothing in the Audible version indicates where the quotes came from. However Mr Mahoney's credentials as the Kennedy Scholar Emeritus of the University of Massachusetts seem above reproach and I assume the quotations are valid. Given that, the conclusions one are drawn to are hard to avoid.

This book is dense with facts, meetings, events and quotes and normally I would suggest that such an event rich book would be better understood in print where it is easier for readers to return to the previous paragraph to re-read something. In fact I found myself rewinding 30 seconds or more frequently to make sure I understood who was saying what, but the events themselves are fresh enough in my memory to have compensated for the lack of a print version and I found myself listening to hours at a time when I would normally have been doing something else. In fact I finished this book in less than 3 full days. Given it's length that gives some indication as to how the story and the narration held me.

Both John and Robert Kennedy are presented as real people with both foresight and limitations and the descriptions seem fair and real. Given the material being discussed (assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, collusion and communication with the Mafia and the stories behind both the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, among others), what we see is a very different view of Camelot that detracts from the highly burnished view that many people have of the Kennedy Presidency. I should also mention that this is not a book about who killed John Kennedy. The book, through quotes, follows several threads involving individuals and groups who threatened to kill him, but makes no judgment concerning who may have actually done it. It does, however, have something to say about the judgment of the Warren Commission about a single shooter.

The final section of the book describes the change in Robert Kennedy after he left the office of Attorney General, ran for the U.S. Senate, became an opponent of the Viet Nam war and ran for the Presidential nomination. Of particular interest to me was the change and growth he underwent as he became more aware of the plight of the poor and neglected. The Robert Kennedy that appeared in 1969 seems like a very different Robert Kennedy from the one involved in the Kefauver Committee hearings in the 1950s.

The narration by Peter Altschuler is very good and well suited to the contents. The events described in this book may be at variance with many people's current views of the Kennedys but I think the book is very well done and well worth reading. I recommend it although some parts of it may be hard to listen to, especially for those whose view of the period was formed by the legend of Camelot.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Derek
  • West Chicago, Il, United States
  • 04-10-13

Interesting story and relationship of the brothers

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

I would rank this particular book somewhere between 5-10 out of 30 of the books I've purchased through Audible.com

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Kennedy Brothers?

The death of JFK and Bobby's reaction as well as his close relationship with his sister-in-law. The whole family dynamic of the Kennedy's is intriguing to me.

What three words best describe Peter Altschuler’s performance?

distracting "Quote" "unquote "

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

The brothers relationship certainly inspire some emotional response from most listeners.

Any additional comments?

Had the story not been so well written and interesting I most certainly would have returned the audio file due to Altschuler's seemingly unending need to vocalize the words, quote, unquote. This so was distracting and unnecessary. I have listened to countless Presidential non-fiction and never have encountered any other narrator vocalize these quotes.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • RCC
  • ACTON MA USA
  • 07-24-18

Very good but some questions about details

ive read a bunch of books about the kennedys, more than a few, and i have never before heard anyone claim that bobbys last words were "jack... jack..." while poignant if true, i am surprised to only now hear this, having heard his final monologue many many times. how could every other writer have missed this? and if it disnt haopen, how could this writer have just decided to add that? also, i found this books cersion of bobbys speech in indianapolis on the eve of mlk's assasination to be significantly longer than what he actually is known to have said there (there are of course recordings of his speech from that night). how could this writer have decided to just add this stuff? overall, it was good but offered little new info to those whove read on this topic before and, as i said, has gotten at least a few of the truly iconic (and often tragic) moments in the kennedy brothers lives wrong. or slightly wrong, anyway. nonetheless, still basically sound. narrator was good. and yes, as other reviewers have noted, he says quote and unquote before and after every verbatim quote and it is a little repetitive but, unless you are naturally prone to be annyoyed or to find fault in others, it is little more than that. it hardly ruins the book. at least for me it didnt and i find it hard to imagine that anyone interested in these two fascinating brothers would find it a sufficient reason to stop learning about them and return the book. narrator was very good overall.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Good unbiased story of two brothers and their fate, but...

Is there any real reason to CONSTANTLY SAY quote and unquote EVERY TIME someone speaks? If not for that incessant bit of dialing, this would have been far more enjoyable to listen to.

Too bad this author didn't get further into all the contradictions there was between the 'Nice Irish Catholic boys' John and Bobby were supposed to be, and delve a bit more into the truth of just what a family of scumbags the Kennedy's were beginning at least with Grandpa Joe the gangster and bootlegger multi millionaire who BOUGHT JFKs presidency which eldest son Joe was supposed to best died in WWII. That's is the ON!Y reason John was made into the president. Papa Joe WANTED to HAVE a Kennedy in the Oval Office.

If he were still alive, I'd like to ask him if he felt the price of all the deaths of his family male and female was worth it? Since I highly doubt he's in Heaven, I won't have the chance to ever ask him unless there is reincarnation.

Very good book regardless of my personal feelings about the Kennedys and the very disturbing spoken quote unquote throughout the novel. The facts presented seem well,researched and presented fairly.

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great narrator- slow moving story

The story was very good and gave a good family background and relationship of the Kennedy brothers. But as someone that knows little history surrounding the kennedys the story was hard to follow.

I found myself getting lost quite frequently - especially in the beginning where the backgrounds of joe, jack and bobby were all being told at the same time. I started confusing them, as the story focused more on Jack, then just on Bobby it was much easier to follow.

Think this is a great book if you already know background on the Kennedy family, just a little jumpy if you do not know about Kennedys involvement in Cuba, Bay of Pigs, and trying to crack the mafia.

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Surprisingly well written and informative

By Greg - Most of the material about JFK was familiar to me. The RFK account, however, covered a lot of new ground. I was especially impressed by the insights into their almost symbiotic relationship. I recommend this book to anyone interested in presidential politics.

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Opened My Eyes to the Present

A cool, factual history of the Kennedys. Yet because of the men and the time they inhabited, an engaging story. The aura of Camelot is peeled back so that we can see the players, with their faults and also their heroism. A reminder that 50 years later, we still deal with the same issues.

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great for audio.

if i had been reading it, i wouldnt have made it thru. Intense, complex, scary i lived at that time and thought we lived in a global example of all good....duh

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Grumpy Granny
  • 01-10-18

The production is dire.

It was dreadful. The narration was quote simple awful quote unquote as it was continually interrupted by quote punctuation quote unquote which made the ears bleed to listen to. It was not the fault of the narrator but the producer and director. You cannot put a good story down but this rendition gave it a very good try.

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  • Craig
  • 03-11-17

Perfection

i enjoyed every minute of this book.... so much i didnt know about JFK and RFK..... incredible piece of work

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • judith
  • 02-19-16

Tragic brothers

A very long book and hard to follow at times, owing to The complex interweaving of the different organisations and the roles they played in the lives of the brothers and the politics of the USA. Not helped, as stated in other reviews which I totally endorse, by the narrators constant and infuriating insistence on interpolating 'quote, unquote ' , completely unnecessary and at times, risible, being repeated almost every other word - destroying the sense of the quote. The speed of the narration was also a drawback , it didn't give you a chance to assimilate the information given, or appreciate some of the nuances before charging onto the next sentence.