Customer Reviews: The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys : An American Saga
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on September 15, 1998
Given that the Kennedy family history has been chronicled by hundreds of writers over the years, I was somewhat surprised to find this text remarkably unbiased. Although it was evident that the author had a tremendous respect and admiration for Rose (Fitzgerald) Kennedy, and an equally strong distaste for Joseph Kennedy, the book provided an excellent biographical history of the two families that combined to shape America's most enduring dynasty. The text was well researched, and comprehensive without being tedious to read. Ms. Goodwin's book should be required reading for every high school or college course in twentieth century American history.
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on January 13, 1999
This book is a MUST HAVE for anyone fascinated by the Kennedy family saga. This was the most illuminating account of the family that I had ever read. Doris Kearns Goodwin, in telling the Kennedy and Fitzgerald story, gives a voice to the Boston Irish and immigrants struggling to survive and make their names. Ms. Goodwin is my favorite author; I recommend all of her work.
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on March 10, 2011
As one would expect with Doris Kearns Goodwin, this is a well researched, well written book that is a wonderful read. I would normally give such a book five stars. However, the pace of the book prevents me from giving it all five stars. Certain sections of the book, especially the beginning sections on the Fitzgeralds and Joe Kennedy's Hollywood ventures, are covered in excruciating detail, and this additional attention adds little to the overall experience of the book. Such an examination would be tolerable if the sections on the Kennedy's family life were not short changed. This book does a wonderful job of covering Jack's campaigns, but the rest of the family is hardly mentioned during this period. A few paragraphs on the younger children are thrown in once in a while, but the reader is not provided with the same detail that accompanied previous sections. This is likely the unfortunate result of ending the book on the inauguration of JFK.

Overall, the book gives a relatively fair treatment to the family. Joe Kennedy might be given the benefit of the doubt in a few instances where he does not deserve it, but this does not detract from the book considering the rest of the family's relatively sound morality. Considering the scope of the book, I would highly recommend this work as an introduction to another book focusing more on the Kennedy administration or other family members. One would hope that with the death of Ted Kennedy, Ms. Goodwin might revisit this work and update it to include the totality of the accomplishments of the Kennedy family through that generation.
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on September 1, 2011
The public has long been obsessed with the Kennedy clan. This book gives you insight into Rose Kennedy's childhood and upbringing (she was the daughter of John 'Honey-Fitz' Fitzgerald). Her natural instinct for politics and campaigning is easy to understand from this vivid portrait of life in the Fitzgerald household and the sphere they influenced. You are introduced to a young Joseph Kennedy and see his early ambition firsthand. Each of the children are profiled, warts and all. A worthwhile read if you enjoy American politics, particularly the Kennedy influenced variety.
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on May 24, 2000
American popular history at its best in this history of both sides of the Kennedy family (Rose Kennedy was the daughter of Mayor John Fitzgerald of Boston) beginning in late 19th century tenement poverty in Boston and ending, 800+ pages later, at the inauguration of JFK as President. Countless things here I did not fully know. The book is quite capable of being critical of certain aspects of both families, but its overall impact is to leave one even more amazed by the accomplishments and tragedies of the Kennedy family.
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on October 1, 2009
I'm not going to deal with how well researched this book may or may not be; how can most of us judge that anyway? What I will say is there are 2 reasons I found this book to be a stellar read. First, I find most biographies to be nothing more than a boring recitation of facts which I give reading long before the end. This book reads more like a novel, a really good novel. Second, Doris made the wise decison of ending the book on the day of Kennedy's presidental inauguaration. This is not a biography of John Kennedy, but rather of his parents and maternal grandparents, starting I believe in 1863. It not only describes the personal lives of these families, but also gives a fascinating historical, 100-year view of both U.S. business and politics. (Oh, how things do not change. When will we ever learn?) The enormous length of this book has 2 drawbacks: It's terribly heavy, making it hard to hold and read in bed, and it costs a lot. I suggest getting it from the library as I did mine. On the other hand, I never wanted it to end. How often do you say that about a book? Probably the best biography I've ever read.
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on April 18, 2001
OK, so much negative stuff has been written about the Kennedys that this somehwat romanticized perspective could be viewed as a welcome balance. Though it smacks of Horatio Alger at times, it is indeed interesting and fun and stimulates interest to dig deeper. THe best parts of this book are the history of the US.
Unfortunately, when you do dig deeper than she did, what you find is not very pretty: a genius in business, Joe Kennedy was a tough SOB who would fleece anyone to get richer. Even Kearns has to mention, for example, that he ripped off investors when he got out of Hollywood - ruining many poor people who believed in him - and that his father, a local banker and businessman, burned his account books when he died so that his son would not pursue small debtors he wanted to help out. The Kennedy kids were thrust into power as instruments of his ambition, and it cost many of them their lives, as we know. There was a lot of good in them, but they were bred to become powerful, and what they represented in politics had less to do with conviction than as a means of ascent.
I learned a great deal from this book, so recommend it. But it is also sentimental and ignores too much evidence that contradicts her fawning vision of this elite family of voracious appetites. I suspect the Kennedys recognized Kearns' predilection for nice people and charmed her into willing submission. Afterall, they are true pols, so they used her.
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on March 11, 2013
I read this book about 20 yrs. ago, lent it to someone, and never got it back! Lesson learned! I wanted to read it again so I bought it again! It seemed a little more lengthy this time and less about the personal accounts of the family than I remembered. It was still good but since I had just read No Ordinary Time by the same author about FDR I kept comparing the two. The FDR book was much more concise and I really enjoyed it.
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on January 30, 2005
I was thoroughly enthralled, gripped and engaged in this story of three generations of the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. The story begins in 1863 with the baptism of John Francis Fitzgerald in Boston and concludes almost 100 years later with the inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The families' roots are traced back to the great immigration following the Irish potato famine in the 1840's. From immigration to becoming the American royal family in just three generations is a remarkable achievement that is chronicled in fascinating detail in this comprehensive, definitive narrative.

Even though it is more than 800 pages, the book is not a dry history text, but rather an intriguing glimpse into the lives of the charmed and sometimes tragic lives of this huge Irish Catholic clan. Nothing is omitted, from the affairs of Joseph Kennedy, to the flirtations of Kathleen, the appalling lobotomy of Rosemary, and the sexual antics of John F. Kennedy. The political shenanigans of the elder Fitzgerald provide an interesting examination of Boston politics in the early 1900's...rife with graft and insider manipulation.

The author's writing style is rich, powerful and mesmerizing. For instance, to describe the ascent of JFK into the limelight of American politics, she writes: "For his capacity to arouse the questing imagination of his fellow citizens, and of much of the world beyond America's borders, was to elevate the family saga past the borders of mythology. By the beginning of the fifties he already contained all the elements which his leadership was to be compounded, forged in tumultuous experience, anchored and given direction by his often resented but always unbreakable links to his extraordinary family."

The level of detail and insightful analysis into the complex characters and relationships in the family is well worth your investment of time in reading this tome. A book you won't soon forget.
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on November 21, 2015
I bought three of these. I started with one and by the time I had read about the early Irish in Boston, I bought two for some Irish friends. The story dragged on a bit, as history can, but it was worth reading to better understand the Kennedys of my lifetime. Goodwin is a great writer; I've read many of her books and enjoyed the journeys.
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