The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy

The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy

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by David Nasaw
     
 

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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

 

Joseph Patrick Kennedy—whose life spanned the First World War, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the

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Overview

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

 

Joseph Patrick Kennedy—whose life spanned the First World War, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Cold War—was the patriarch of America’s greatest political dynasty. The father of President John F. Kennedy and senators Robert and Edward Kennedy, “Joe” Kennedy was an indomitable and elusive figure whose dreams of advancement for his nine children were matched only by his extraordinary personal ambition and shrewd financial skills. Trained as a banker, Kennedy was also a Hollywood mogul, a stock exchange savant, a shipyard manager, the founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and ambassador to London during the Battle of Britain. Though his incredible life encompasses the very heart of the American century, Joseph Kennedy has remained shrouded in rumor and prejudice for decades.

 

Drawing on never-before-published material from archives on three continents, David Nasaw—the renowned biographer of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst—unearths a man far more complicated than the popular portrait. Was Kennedy an appeaser and isolationist, an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer, a stock swindler, a bootlegger, and a colleague of mobsters? Did he push his second son into politics and then buy his elections for him? Why did he have his daughter Rosemary lobotomized? Why did he oppose the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and American assistance to the French in Vietnam? What was his relationship to J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI? How did he influence his son’s politics and policies in the White House? In this groundbreaking biography Nasaw ignores the tired old answers surrounding Kennedy, starting from scratch to discover the truth behind this misunderstood man.

 

Though far from a saint, Joseph Kennedy in many ways exemplifies the best in American political, economic, and social life. His rags-to-riches story is one of exclusion and quiet discrimination overcome by entrepreneurship, ingenuity, and unshakable endurance. Kennedy’s story deserves to be told in full, with no holds barred, and Nasaw’s magnificent The Patriarch is the first book to do so.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Christopher Buckley
…riveting…The Patriarch is a book hard to put down, a garland not lightly bestowed on a cinder block numbering 787 pages of text…Nasaw credibly avers that he has taken forensic pains to excise anything that could not be confirmed by primary sources. I am no historian, but the evidence appears to support his claim. His research is Robert Caro-esque; barely a paragraph is not footnoted. And he is unsparing about his subject's shortcomings, which are numerous…There has been no dearth of books about America's royal family, but this one makes a solid case that the ur-Kennedy was the most fascinating of them all.
The Washington Post - David Greenberg
…engrossing and perceptive…Nasaw delves deep into archives, reconstructing virtually from scratch a multifaceted and ambiguous portrait of a figure who was for decades near the center of power in Hollywood and Washington, finance and diplomacy.
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 the Publisher
One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2012
A New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book of 2012
A Booklist Editor's Choice of 2012
One of Newsday's 12 Best Books of the Year

Riveting… The Patriarch is a book hard to put down…As his son indelibly put it some months before his father was struck down: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your county.’ One wonders what was going through the mind of the patriarch, sitting a few feet away listening to that soaring sentiment as a fourth-generation Kennedy became president of the United States.  After coming to know him over the course of this brilliant, compelling book, the reader might suspect that he was thinking he had done more than enough for his country.  But the gods would demand even more.”
—Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review

"Panoramic. Never before has Joseph P. Kennedy's conduct been documented in such damning detail, and never before has the veredict on his character been rendered so persuasively."
Wall Street Journal

"A spellbinding book."
Slate

“David Nasaw’s The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy is the sort of biography that begs to be called ‘magisterial.’"
Boston Globe

"Nasaw was approached to write this biography by Kennedy's children Jean Kennedy Smith and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who offered unfettered access to previously unseen papers. The choice was brilliant. Having written admired biographies of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst, Nasaw understands how titans of business operate. In this outstanding biography, he captures the reality of one of America's most complicated and controversial figures."
USA Today

“Mr. Nasaw has the rare ability to see the big picture and frame the detail with careful scholarship — all the while making room for elements that do not fit — which in Joe Kennedy's case is quite a lot…. Mr. Nasaw's is a literate and searching exposition of the patriarch's life that offers the reader compelling answers to questions about JPK…. If The Patriarch doesn't scoop up some serious accolades for the writing of American history, the fix is in.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

"[A] sprawling, highly readable biography of the dynast and larger-than-life figure whose presence still haunts American political life... Working from his subject’s extensive archives, Nasaw (Andrew Carnegie, 2006, etc.) pieces together a sometimes-sympathetic, sometimes-critical view of Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969), father of John F. Kennedy and most definitely a man of parts... Exhaustive yet accessible, Nasaw’s book illuminates."
Kirkus (starred review)

"A major contribution to Kennedy history."
Booklist (starred review)

"Nasaw captures the full humanity of his subject... This is truly a 'definitive' biography."
History Book Club

Pittsburgh Post Gazette
David Nasaw's 'The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy' is the sort of biography that begs to be called 'magisterial.'– Boston Globe
"Mr. Nasaw has the rare ability to see the big picture and frame the detail with careful scholarship -- all the while making room for elements that do not fit -- which in Joe Kennedy's case is quite a lot…. Mr. Nasaw's is a literate and searching exposition of the patriarch's life that offers the reader compelling answers to questions about JPK…. If 'The Patriarch' doesn't scoop up some serious accolades for the writing of American history, the fix is in.
Library Journal
Celebrated for his biographies of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst, Nasaw takes on Joseph P. Kennedy, businessman, Hollywood mogul, founding chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. ambassador to Britain, and, of course, father to our 35th President. He had exclusive access to Kennedy's papers and addresses some longstanding questions.
Kirkus Reviews
Sprawling, highly readable biography of the dynast and larger-than-life figure whose presence still haunts American political life. Working from his subject's extensive archives, Nasaw (Andrew Carnegie, 2006, etc.) pieces together a sometimes-sympathetic, sometimes-critical view of Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969), father of John F. Kennedy and most definitely a man of parts. Born into wealth, he learned the ropes in the banking business before heading to Hollywood to try his hand at filmmaking. In the last pursuit, he charted only some successes, but he made great use of the perks of the job in bedding starlets, notably Gloria Swanson. Kennedy left Hollywood to return to finance, moving among several palatial homes in Florida, New York and Massachusetts and building a massive fortune thanks to what Nasaw calls "an almost uncanny knack for being in the right stock." His children, including future politicians John, Robert and Edward, grew up surrounded by opulence, though the patriarch took care that they not become spoiled by too much too soon. Yet, by Nasaw's account, when the Depression hit and reduced his fortune along with everyone else's, Kennedy's mood seemed to turn, and he spent the rest of his long life in brooding and contrarian turns, courting plenty of trouble along the way. Accused, as Nasaw notes, of various crimes and moral failings, ranging from bootlegging to anti-Semitism, Kennedy nevertheless instilled in his family a sense of dedication to service and of the necessity of hard work. As he writes, Jack Kennedy recognized that despite the advantages of wealth, he had obstacles to overcome that were at least due in part to his father: "If I were governor of a large state, Protestant and 55," he said, "I could sit back and let it come to me." It did not, and nothing came easy to any of the Kennedys, that tragic clan, who continue to fascinate. Exhaustive yet accessible, Nasaw's book illuminates.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143124078
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/24/2013
Pages:
896
Sales rank:
216,530
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 2.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2012
A New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book of 2012
A Booklist Editor's Choice of 2012
One of Newsday's 12 Best Books of the Year

Riveting… The Patriarch is a book hard to put down…As his son indelibly put it some months before his father was struck down: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your county.’ One wonders what was going through the mind of the patriarch, sitting a few feet away listening to that soaring sentiment as a fourth-generation Kennedy became president of the United States.  After coming to know him over the course of this brilliant, compelling book, the reader might suspect that he was thinking he had done more than enough for his country.  But the gods would demand even more.”
—Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review

"Panoramic. Never before has Joseph P. Kennedy's conduct been documented in such damning detail, and never before has the veredict on his character been rendered so persuasively."
Wall Street Journal

"A spellbinding book."
Slate

“David Nasaw’s The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy is the sort of biography that begs to be called ‘magisterial.’"
Boston Globe

"Nasaw was approached to write this biography by Kennedy's children Jean Kennedy Smith and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who offered unfettered access to previously unseen papers. The choice was brilliant. Having written admired biographies of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst, Nasaw understands how titans of business operate. In this outstanding biography, he captures the reality of one of America's most complicated and controversial figures."
USA Today

“Mr. Nasaw has the rare ability to see the big picture and frame the detail with careful scholarship — all the while making room for elements that do not fit — which in Joe Kennedy's case is quite a lot…. Mr. Nasaw's is a literate and searching exposition of the patriarch's life that offers the reader compelling answers to questions about JPK…. If The Patriarch doesn't scoop up some serious accolades for the writing of American history, the fix is in.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

"[A] sprawling, highly readable biography of the dynast and larger-than-life figure whose presence still haunts American political life... Working from his subject’s extensive archives, Nasaw (Andrew Carnegie, 2006, etc.) pieces together a sometimes-sympathetic, sometimes-critical view of Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969), father of John F. Kennedy and most definitely a man of parts... Exhaustive yet accessible, Nasaw’s book illuminates."
Kirkus (starred review)

"A major contribution to Kennedy history."
Booklist (starred review)

"Nasaw captures the full humanity of his subject... This is truly a 'definitive' biography."
History Book Club

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