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The Patriarch

The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
Nasaw, David (Book - 2012)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Patriarch
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"Celebrated historian David Nasaw brings to life the story of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, in this, the first and only biography based on unrestricted and exclusive access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers."-- Publisher's description.
Authors: Nasaw, David
Title: The patriarch
the remarkable life and turbulent times of Joseph P. Kennedy
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2012
Characteristics: xxiv, 868 p., [16] p. of plates :,ill. ;,25 cm
Statement of Responsibility: David Nasaw
Summary: "Celebrated historian David Nasaw brings to life the story of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, in this, the first and only biography based on unrestricted and exclusive access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers."-- Publisher's description.
ISBN: 9781594203763
1594203768
Branch Call Number: 973.9092 N243p 2012
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. [793]-834) and index
Subject Headings: Kennedy, Joseph P. (Joseph Patrick), 1888-1969 Ambassadors United States Biography Politicians United States Biography Businesspeople United States Biography Kennedy family
Topical Term: Ambassadors
Politicians
Businesspeople
LCCN: 2012027315
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A monumental work that tells the story of the relentless tycoon who created a dynastic family that helped shape modern American history and also suffered immense tragedy. (Pulitzer Prize citation)


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This is a professional, workmanlike and serviceable biography of Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch of the American political dynasty. It is very long and at times bogs down. It is basically a straightforward chronological account, with little analytical weight. The Kennedy family asked David Nasaw to do it and he negotiated unfettered access to Kennedy's records. The author avoids sensationalism and gossip, which may make the book boring or disappointing for some. He dismisses the notion that Kennedy was involved in bootlegging, arguing that there is no concrete evidence, but more importantly, Kennedy was extremely successful and had too much to lose. Nasaw does not dwell on Kennedy's womanizing, which was extensive, except for his liaison with Gloria Swanson, because of its profile and its importance to Kennedy's years in film. The book is good on Kennedy's business career, but missed an excellent opportunity, given the author's access to the records, to provide a fuller account of how Kennedy amassed his fortune. An accountant might have helped here. Kennedy came from a comfortable background but over a 40 year career became one of the wealthiest men in America and established the basis for the Kennedy political dynasty. Also, the book fails to dig deeply into all the business and political connections that Kennedy used from the very outset of his career to smooth his path and which he then in turn used shamelessly for his children. Kennedy had a protean career and was successful at every business venture- banking, real estate, ship building, film and consulting. He used media and public relations effectively for himself and his family. His downfall was his posting as Ambassador to the United Kingdom, where his hubris and fear for his family led him to appeasement and isolationism even after it was evident to most people that Hitler had to be stopped. On Kennedy's anti-Semitism, Nasaw concludes that he was not an outright anti-Semitic, but certainly had anti-Jewish sentiments, which he stated publicly at times. The book is good on Kennedy's relationship with his wife and many children. He is portrayed as a loving and doting father who gained his children's trust, admiration and love. Nasaw feels that ultimately, Kennedy was a tragic figure whose life, despite riches and success was marred by countless tragedies. Nasaw does not engage in psychiatric analysis. He takes Kennedy's character as given and proceeds from there, which is a shame in a way as Kennedy's career would certainly help illuminate a debate about how character and environment influence ultimate outcomes.

Dec 20, 2013
  • dbarry111 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I thought this was a sensational book. It's extraordinary how influential Joe Kennedy was in major times of the 20th century.

He was ruthless in his investing but he knew how to make money and then how to get out before losing everything in the crash.

He was such an influential banker that Roosevelt placed him as the head of the SEC and he helped Roosevelt sell his policies to wall street -- a really important role.

Kennedy was also a very sophisticated PR guy. He had connections in the media and used them constantly...even to the point with Arthur Krock {sp?} at the NY Times who was on Kennedy's salary and continually wrote positive stories for him.

The author's description of Kennedy's time as an ambassador to England during the lead up to WW II and during it was the most fascinating part of the book. First, the perspective he had at the time was that England and all of Europe would lose to Hitler. Looking back it seems so striking. He wanted to cut a deal with Hitler, which is shocking in its own right. He was trying to avoid war, but his pessimism was outsized. He also was clearly anti-semitic, though I think his descriptions of how well organized the Jewish community was in pushing its interests were interesting.

So much great insight, this was a great book.

I decided to wade through this book since I had read one about Rose several years ago. The author says he wrote the book at the request of members of the Kennedy family so I expected a whitewash and was surprised to find that wasn't always the case. Of course there was no organized crime connection and Chappaquiddick never happened as it was never mentioned. But the focus is Joe who I must say so intrigued me that now I want to read other bios about him.

"Joseph P. Kennedy, father of nine children, including President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert and Edward, was himself a legend before his sons rose to high political office. In The Patriarch, historian and biographer David Nasaw depicts a man whose own political activities attracted both admiration and resentment; he considers various characterisations of Joseph Kennedy, Sr., such as his alleged anti-Semitism and accusations of bootlegging, and compares them to evidence in the actual records. Offering conclusions about the public aspects of the senior Kennedy's life, Nasaw also depicts a private man whose main concerns were the security of his family and guarding his private fortune." Biography and Memoir November 2013 newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=701378

Nov 07, 2013
  • StarGladiator rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I read this book some time back, but thought it unworthy of comment. Before attacking this author, I should state that President Kennedy was the last real democrat in the White House (completely unlike the neocon administrations of Clinton and Obama) and anyone who studies his legislation and programs (before they were incredibly compromised after his murder) will understand what I mean when I state the JFK picked up FDR's torch! Must completely disagree with the author and his flimsy research, Joe Kennedy was a criminal mastermind of the first order, not simply a bootlegger, but in all probability the architect behind Prohibition, first either purchasing or strongarming his way (with the help of the Irish and Sicilian mobs) into a monpoly of distilleries and hooches, and bringing together other bankers (Joe was the youngest bank president in US history at that time) to finance the temperance parties and unions for passage of the Prohibition legislation in 1920. Joseph Kennedy flunked out of prep school and then, being the ultimate scammer, scammed his way into an academic scholarship at Harvard (one of his courses there covered how the vote was given to the women of Seattle in 1883, whereupon the Seattle ladies formed an anti-alcohol/saloon/brothel platform, successfully won, and almost brought Seattle to certain economic disaster. (Seattle's chief businesses then were its saloons and brothels, for gold miners enroute to Alaskan fields. Add to that later John Brainerd's marketing genius of adding Seattle as THE supply point to the miners! (Re: REI) The vote was later withdrawn from the women of Seattle, by the men petitioning the territorial governor. Perhaps that course at Harvard was the impetus for Kennedy's diabolical idea in using Prohibition to dramatically increase his fortunes? The author is exceedingly correct in his descriptions of Joe as being dedicated to his family, and so forth. [When the author falsely states there was nothing to link him, Joe Kennedy, to the Mafia, not only is he clearly incorrect, but anyone familiar with the hearings into organized crime in the unions (back in the late 1950s, believe they were called the Kefauver hearings?) recalls the number of organized crime types who asked Bobby Kennedy, who was part of those hearings and investigations, after his father, Joe, whom they all knew and knew well.]

Sep 16, 2013
  • bette108 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Well researched and quite fascinating about Joe's early business adventures.

Very concise and informative but information overload & too much detail that makes this book very boring.

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app05 Version Arkelstorp Last updated 2014/10/16 16:30