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The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy Hardcover – November 13, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; F First Edition edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594203768
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203763
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (287 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The father of Jack, Bobby, and Teddy (plus six others) was not a bootlegger, nor does any evidence link him to the Mafia, writes Nasaw, refuting two longstanding rumors. But Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969) was possibly the worst U.S. ambassador to Great Britain ever, so committed to appeasing Hitler that FDR cut him out of the diplomatic loop. Kennedy won the post because he was one of the few businessmen to support the New Deal, creator of pioneering financial regulations as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He knew all about manipulating stocks, having parlayed the modest affluence of his father, an East Boston ward heeler, into a fortune in the market. Kennedy was a wonderful father himself, although he and his wife, Rose, led almost completely separate lives. Nasaw (Andrew Carnegie), a history professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, does a fine job of capturing Kennedy's fiery personality and his eventful, ultimately tragic life, watching Jack rise to the presidency, suffering a stroke but living long enough to see two of his sons assassinated. But the book is much too long and oddly focused; Kennedy's three-year ambassadorship occupies more than 25% of the text. The reams of fascinating material would have been better served by more careful shaping. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Nov.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* What’s considered common knowledge about historical figures often gets a biographical rewrite, and to some degree that’s what happens in this heavy (literally, sometimes figuratively) look at Joseph Kennedy. When one reads in the introduction that Nasaw was asked by the Kennedy family to write this biography, the obvious question is, How did the request affect the finished product? Nasaw was granted access to papers denied to other researchers and worked for six years on the project. Some of his conclusions clash markedly with what has been written about Kennedy (Nasaw dismisses rather lightly the long-held conclusion that Joe made part of his fortune as a bootlegger). But he gives readers a much fuller look at various accusations made against Kennedy, especially the charge that he was an anti-Semite. Through quoted letters, it is clear that Kennedy did have a grudge against the Jews, mostly because they interfered with what he wanted, be it getting a foothold in the movie industry or keeping the U.S out of WWII. His isolationism never really wavered. He believed that “victory over Hitler had cost much and accomplished little.” Perhaps the key element to Kennedy, Nasaw suggests, is that rather than being larger than life, he was much smaller. He was all about protecting his family and his fortune. Though fortune remained, the family shattered, cutting Kennedy, in many ways, adrift. The book becomes more fascinating the farther one gets into it, and while there may be areas for dispute here, there’s no doubt it makes a major contribution to Kennedy history. --Ilene Cooper

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Customer Reviews

The book is nicely written and read very well.
wires
This book is long but very well written and provides new information and insight on the life of this man, even as well--documented as it has been.
Ann M. Rhodes
This makes for an exciting book - one in which the author has unlimited access to resources and can use all of them.
James M. Coffey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Ann M. Rhodes on December 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a history junkie and I've read several biographies of Joseph P. Kennedy. This is by far the best. It is a warts and all depiction that portrays his naked ambition, infidelity and epically bad service as U.S.Smbassador to the Court of St. James. At the same time, he was a devoted father, took care of his children when they were sick and their mother was shopping, and tried to prepare them to fulfill his ambitions. It's hard to reconcile the two sides of this complex personality:cruel and unfaithful to his wife, disloyal, controlling and self-promoting in his professional life, and a loving father who was wildly supportive of his near-delinquent offspring. This book is long but very well written and provides new information and insight on the life of this man, even as well--documented as it has been. I recommend it highly.
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65 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Paul Dueweke on December 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was reluctant to read "Patriarch" because it is 800 pages, and I wanted to know only 200 pages about J. P. Kennedy. But I got hooked, and there you have it.

Nasaw spends a lot of time presenting Kennedy in his early and mid years up to when he had to resign as ambassador to the UK on October 22, 1940. His last 29 years were covered in only 120 pages, and most of that centered on the political careers of his three sons. But those years were at least as important to modern Americans as his career up to 1940.

-- The Mob

There were some major issues during that period that Nasaw chose not to cover. One is the ongoing love/hate relationship between the Kennedy clan and J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover's name comes up only a half dozen times, and each of those is about a minor event. There's no doubt that Hoover's obsession with surveilling the Kennedys and his accumulation of secret files on the Kennedys were major considerations to the Kennedy family, and the facts that have come to light have important implications about the Kennedy boys and the father. But Nasaw discusses none of this.

A major example of this is Nasaw's neglect of Sam Giancana, a Mafia godfather in Chicago. The FBI and others maintain that Joseph Kennedy met with Giancana in Chicago and New York during the 1960 campaign to arrange a deal to deliver Chicago to the Kennedy ticket. Chicago did in fact vote for Kennedy, which seems like a miracle in light of how the Kennedy brothers had relentlessly attacked mob leaders in the McClellan Committee hearings.
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75 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Michael Moritz on December 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. KennedyCaring for the clan was Joseph P. Kennedy's instinctive impulse. Family, or more precisely, the welfare of his nine children came first. Their needs were followed by those of his Catholic brethren and his countrymen. This left everyone else beyond the pale for a man who was often on the front pages during the middle of the American century. Tribalism defined Kennedy and was the root of all his troubles.

It's easy to understand why Kennedy had problems with others. The grandson of an immigrant to Boston who had fled the Irish potato famine, Kennedy grew up in a City where Protestants - all those Cabots, Lodges and Saltonstalls - occupied the upper reaches during a time when it was considered an oddity for a Catholic to attend Harvard or work at one of the major, downtown banks. Kennedy was reared as an outsider and no matter how successful he became, it was a sensibility he never shook off.

David Nasaw's stupendous 868 page life of Kennedy - `The Patriarch, The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy' - is a large portrait mixed from a palette of original research which dispatches some of the myths about its subject while retaining a calm and dispassionate air. Nasaw convincingly dispels the ugliest of the rumors, accusations and innuendo that have sullied Kennedy's reputation. He finds no evidence that the father of a President, an Attorney General and a Senator - not to mention the progenitor of any number of familial tragedies, scandals and calamities - was a bootlegger or swindler.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a fan of the biography genre and love nothing more than a lengthy, copiously researched, well-written tome such as this. I am also an aficionado of books about the Kennedy family as well - since I am of Irish descent, follow politics closely and am from Boston there is a natural curiosity. I started the book this morning and have only put it down to start a review - it is a great book. I read the author's previous work on Andrew Carnegie and it is well-deserving of its high-praise - I foresee that same level of praise for this piece as well. I read about twenty (20) biographies a year and the Andrew Carnegie biography is one of the best of the lot; so far The Patriarch is shaping up to be on par with the Carnegie book ... or possibly surpassing it in its quality.

The author was pursued by the Kennedy family over a decade ago to write the biography of the family's patriarch and he refused - he does not write authorized biographies. Only after much negotiation would he acquiesce - and only with the conditions that nothing could be redacted or blocked and that he would have access to ALL of family's archives. He was also able to interview several family members that have since died: Senator Kennedy, Eunice and Sargent Shriver, Patricia Lawford, etc. This makes for an exciting book - one in which the author has unlimited access to resources and can use all of them.

The Patriarch begins in Ireland with Kennedy's grandfather deciding to depart for the United States - he is not escaping the famine but rather the economic downturn that accompanied it. He was a realist that knew - since he was not the first-born son - he would not inherit land: this meant a great life could only be found someplace far away.
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