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, Malcolm Hillgartner
     
 

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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

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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Audio
Kennedy, father of a U.S. President and eight other remarkable children, was a complex man. He was Boston-Irish from a privileged background but far exceeded his forebears in moneymaking and ambition both for himself and his children. For his offspring, he was always there—a family man extraordinaire. On other fronts he greatly admired British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain—they both wanted to avoid a devastating war—up to a point and made an impact on Hollywood as founder of RKO Pictures, absorbing in the process a distrust of Jews that affected the rest of his life. Kennedy was also a philanderer but discrete about it to the point that his wife, Rose, didn't believe the rumors. There's much else to tell, and Nasaw tells it. Reader Malcom Hillgartner mimics the Boston accent we know from the president very nicely, as well as those of many other characters, especially the British. Both success and tragedy followed Kennedy, and the text is presented in a way that listeners can feel their impact. VERDICT With the 50th anniversary of JFK's death approaching, any related titles will be in demand. Recommended.—Don Wismer, Trustee Emeritus, Cary Memorial Lib., Wayne, ME
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's Ten Best Books of the Year
One of Kirkus's Best Nonfiction 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.” – New York Times Book Review

“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.” – Pittsburgh Post Gazette
 

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611761382
Publisher:
Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/13/2012
Pages:
1
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 5.62(h) x 2.12(d)

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

Meet the Author

DAVID NASAW is the author of Andrew Carnegie, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography and winner of the Bancroft Prize in History. He is the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I read the review of "The Patriach" in the New York Times which called it "riveting," and you really can't put it down. It's like watching a TV mini-series, a panorama of American history in the twentieth century, and the role of one man, Joseph Kennedy, in that history. Kennedy was a titanic figure, both good and bad, who founded America's most important political dynasty. He was a brilliant stock manipulator, a movie producer, a lover of many women, including the movie star, Gloria Swanson, and American ambassador to Great Britain leading up to World War II. And along the way, he raised nine children, among them a President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, two Senators, Robert and Edward Kennedy, and Eunice Shriver, who founded the disabilities movement in America. There are some repeated page NUMBERS only, not pages themselves, but Barnes and Noble is apparently fixing this. There is absolutely No text missing at all from the ebook -- the pages do seem to be laid out with white spaces between the sections. Maybe that's what this reviewer meant by missing text.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the definitive biography of Joseph Kennedy, the complex and fascinating founder of the Kennedy dynasty. It is informed by the author's impeccable research and deep knowledge of and engagement with the cultural, social and political currents of American history. Yet it reads like a novel. Though some pages are repeated in the Nook, nothing is missing. All the text is there. In any case, Barnes & Noble is aware of the problem and it will soon be corrected, if it hasn't been already
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A detailed chronicle of one of America's most interesting and controversial figures. Anyone who has a sincere fascination of the Kennedy family must read "The Patriarch." The book is aptly titled and gives "Camelot" a whole new meaning. I had a tough time putting the book down until I read the last page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good read but I found this lacking and way to pro Kennedy and very hard to totally believe.  This was a truly ruthless man who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted.  The words  puff piece just kept popping into my head as I read on.  Just not in the class of Robert Caro's volumes on Lyndon Johnson.  Final thoughts are once again, a good read but seeming to be lacking.
DeneMD More than 1 year ago
David Nasaw the life of Jodeph Kennedy with his book. Tracing Kennedy's life totally it shows exactly how one man helped to describe the turbulent times of the 20th century with his accomplishments. A must read volume for anyone interested in the subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well researched and described in great detail what he did. It seems to lack some context, however. For example, were there other "self made fortunes" being accumulated or produced at the same time as he was genetating his? What were those "investor" like? Was the Kennedy family wealth like the Rockefellers? How did hi treat his employees? Need more detail on the why of his relationship to FDR. It was a good biography but could have been a great one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did'nt want this book to end. Yet, knowing the final outcome, alas,it would have to. Highly recommended to anyone who loves history. Also,if you are interested in historical families of America,the Kennedys belong on that list of "must reads." EXCELLENT! Thank you, David Nasaw
steve2012 More than 1 year ago
As a Kennedy fan who has read many books in regard to the Kennedys' this book was one of the best that I have read. It held my attention and I learned about many aspects of Joseph Kennedy life that I was unaware of. This is well worth the time reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book to readers who enjoy Kennedy family history. The author clarifies some of the well-known rumors and gossip associated with Joseph Kennedy including the "fact" of his being a bootlegger and the interesting details of his relationship with Gloria Swanson. Well-researched and easy to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Long at almost 1000 pages but excellent bio with the advantage of covering a dynasty which has been integral to the history of US.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well documented biography of a very private individual who certainly knew how to get things done. Despite his political mistakes in supporting keeping the United States out of the II World War the book helps us understand a very complex and generous man who was very loyal to his friends and family and did a great service to the country .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Intelligent, well researched. Sheds light on a public figure who has frequently been demonized. Enjoyable and believable.
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Bassist More than 1 year ago
THE BASIC THEME OF DESCRIBING HIS DRIVE TO SUCCEED WAS CLEARLY PASSED ON TO HIS CHILDREN. UNFORTUNATELY SUCCESS DOES NOT ALWAYS BRING SATISFACTION.
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