Top critical review
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nice soft ball approach
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.