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Sons and Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy Hardcover – August 18, 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 295 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This intriguing book brings a fresh perspective to bear on the intimate, charged partnership of John and Robert Kennedy. The author, Richard D. Mahoney, whose father was a friend of Bobby's and an appointee of Jack's, has both the academic and political experience necessary to evaluate evidence of the Kennedys' relations with the Mafia, anti-Castro rebels, and other groups lurking in the shadows of American life. He also has a sharp eye for the brothers' differing yet complementary personalities. Jack was intellectual and cheerfully cynical, with a zest for pleasure increased by a life-threatening illness concealed from the public. He looked to passionate, partisan Bobby for bulldog-like political support and used his brother as a "moral compass" when planning his administration's actions on civil rights, the corruption of organized labor, and the containment of Communism. Their powerful father, Joseph--whose deep pockets basically bought Jack the presidency and at the same time compromised it because of Joseph's links to organized crime--looms over the brothers as the author of a Faustian bargain that may well have played a role in JFK's assassination. Mahoney's vivid, compulsively readable text offers suggestive questions rather than definitive answers, but it certainly succeeds as a bracing corrective to "America's inability to see its history as tragedy," a failure Jack and Bobby emphatically did not share. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Writing in a steady, almost relentlessly elegiac tone, Mahoney proves that the lives and deaths of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy remain as compelling now as they were throughout the turbulent 1960s. Mahoney, a former JFK scholar at the University of Massachusetts and at the Kennedy Library, examines how Jack and Bobby were shaped by their relationship as brothers and by the legacy of their father, Joe Kennedy. In 44 brief chapters, each a vignette chosen to illuminate how the brothers responded to events not as separate historical actors but as members of a family, Mahoney reveals the anger, even rage, that permeated the Kennedy years (exemplified by the implacable hatred between Bobby and the Mafia and between the Kennedys and Castro). The tumultuous events of the 1960s pass in review as Mahoney contrasts Jack as the cool ironist with Bobby as a vengeful authoritarian who grew, Mahoney contends, into a principled moral crusader. Although he asserts a second gunman took part in the JFK assassination, Mahoney doesn't identify him or definitively endorse any of the competing conspiracy theories. Ultimately, Mahoney offers a vivid fraternal portrait of Jack and Bobby Kennedy as co-participants in the crises of their times, setting in motion forces that would lead to their destruction. Mahoney is an excellent storyteller, but the drums of high drama rumble a bit too persistently through the book as he portrays the brothers as figures out of a Greek tragedy brought both high and low by the force of their character.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 494 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1st edition (August 18, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559704802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559704809
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (295 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,095,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Mr Pat Hynes on November 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished this book and while I have read many books on the Kennedy Presidency this one certainly stands out as one of the few that accurately describes the socio political climate which prevailed during his three year term. While many will no doubt concentrate on the story in terms of its conclusions relating to the JFK assasination, I have to say that it was the author's description of the day to day handling of one crisis after another. Starting with the Bay of Pigs invasion which lead to increased soviet pressure in terms of West Berlin and on ultimately to the 1962 missile crisis, you really get a feel for the era in which the Kennedy's prevailed. Another interesting theme in the book was John Kennedy's total disdain for his military advisors and commanders who he described as brass hats. This attitude reached its climax at the height of the Missile crisis where he adopted a very tactical and de-escalated approach to the problem. Standing tough publicly in terms of his resolve but leaving just enough room for the soviets to get off their own hook, he faced an on going battle with his Generals who would have gone to war. I don't wish to give the impression that the book is all JFK, Bobby Kennedy is an important aspect to the book particularly his tough, constant and uncompromising defense of his brother. This book is definitely worth a read.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a tragedy, in the Greek sense of the word. Richard Mahoney, through the most rigorous scholarly work, transcends the "facts", put you in a corner with overwhelming lucidity and leaves you there, in despair, as a witness of the inevitability of the Kennedy brothers' (Jack and Bobby) destiny. All the components of the human quest for power and its consequences are masterly described and explained. The primordial driving force in this saga is the political ambition of the "Ambassador" (Joe Kennedy Sr.). This ambition is materialized with the tribal subordination of his offspring, their soldierly attachment, and their father's unscrupulous disregard for the "means" to obtain his goals. The Presidency of the United States, the ultimate prize, turns into the sacrificial stone for Jack and Bobby Kennedy. The reading of this book gives an overall sense of the flow of history in general, the big picture. However, the details that make this story are precise and well documented. The author takes the reader in a rather exciting journey from the arid zones of the legal chasing of criminals, to the exploration of their most dark motives. From the grandiosity of historical moments such as John Kennedy's decision not to launch an air strike against Cuba, probably avoiding with this the annihilation of most of humanity, to the abyss of his self-defeating extramarital sexual encounters that crudely exposed him to the spears of his enemies. One by one the different components of the fatal trap fall into place and the unavoidable occurs: The faith of the hero(s) fatally concludes.
After the background is set, the drama unfolds.
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Format: Hardcover
It is interesting to go through those turbulent years of the 1960's and get a clearer understanding of what took place. The author shows how vulnerable a country can be when people in high places such as President Kennedy and F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover place themselves in compromising positions subject to possible blackmail from others. President Kennedy wouldn't get away with his extramarital relations now as he did in the '60's. I was especially impressed with Robert Kennedy in this book. This man was a doer who showed a genuine concern for the improvished in this country (the blacks, Indians, Mexicans, and poor whites) when he could have chosen not to get involved. His attacks on the mafia may have led to his brother's death, but he had the courage to face up to the problem rather than pretend it didn't exist. Leaders always have someone who don't like them, and the Kennedys, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, paid the ultimate price for this. It's too bad that there was such friction between the Kennedys, King, Johnson, and Hoover. Working together, they could have accomplished more for the country. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and it was interesting to revisit this turbulent period in history.
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Format: Hardcover
During Robert Kennedy's campaign for the American presidency in 1968 he would sometimes disappear from the wild crowds and sit alone for hours on end. When aides would ask what he was thinking about, he would reply, "Just thinking about Jack."
The relationship between the two brothers, and the dynamic political partnership it generated, was one of the most important in American politics.
This is the subject of Richard Mahoney's Sons and Brothers. But the book also documents their father Joe's relationship with the corrupt worlds of the mafia, the labour unions and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI.
Although the research is copious, there are no revelations. The author draws on the work and ideas of conspiracy kings Anthony Summers (The Arrogance of Power) and Seymour Hersh (The Dark Side of Camelot), while the controversial movie director Oliver Stone gets a thank you in the acknowledgments.
While they were growing up, John and Robert were not particularly close. After the death of their older brother, Joe jnr, during World War II (and sister Kathleen a few years later) the family's political prospects rested with John. The brothers' relationship became close: Robert managed John's 1952 Senate campaign, his ill-fated bid for the Democratic vice-presidential nomination in 1956 and his run for the presidency in 1960.
Following the Kennedy win, the new president - and his father - wanted Robert as attorney-general. Robert protested but in the end John's desire for someone he could trust won out. Anticipating criticism over the appointment, John explained to the press: "I can't see that it's wrong to give him a little legal experience before he goes out to practise law.
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