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

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Penguin, Nov 13, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 896 pages
9 Reviews
2013 Pulitzer Prize Finalist
New York Times Ten Best Books of 2012

“Riveting…The Patriarch is a book hard to put down.”  – Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review

In this magisterial new work The Patriarch, the celebrated historian David Nasaw tells the full story of Joseph P. Kennedy, the founder of the twentieth century's most famous political dynasty. Nasaw—the only biographer granted unrestricted access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library—tracks Kennedy's astonishing passage from East Boston outsider to supreme Washington insider. Kennedy's seemingly limitless ambition drove his career to the pinnacles of success as a banker, World War I shipyard manager, Hollywood studio head, broker, Wall Street operator, New Deal presidential adviser, and founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. His astounding fall from grace into ignominy did not come until the years leading up to and following America's entry into the Second World War, when the antiwar position he took as the first Irish American ambassador to London made him the subject of White House ire and popular distaste.

The Patriarch is a story not only of one of the twentieth century's wealthiest and most powerful Americans, but also of the family he raised and the children who completed the journey he had begun. Of the many roles Kennedy held, that of father was most dear to him. The tragedies that befell his family marked his final years with unspeakable suffering.

The Patriarch looks beyond the popularly held portrait of Kennedy to answer the many questions about his life, times, and legacy that have continued to haunt the historical record. Was Joseph P. Kennedy an appeaser and isolationist, an anti-Semite and a Nazi sympathizer, a stock swindler, a bootlegger, and a colleague of mobsters? What was the nature of his relationship with his wife, Rose? 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 the FBI? Did he push his second son into politics and then buy his elections for him?

In this pioneering biography, Nasaw draws on never-before-published materials from archives on three continents and interviews with Kennedy family members and friends to tell the life story of a man who participated in the major events of his times: the booms and busts, the Depression and the New Deal, two world wars and a cold war, and the birth of the New Frontier. In studying Kennedy's life, we relive with him the history of the American Century.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - MikeBiever - LibraryThing

Learning more about great men, is a history lesson in the influence and pathways regarding the United States. Joseph P Kennedy was no less of a figure of this history. There is no secret that Kennedy ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - gayla.bassham - LibraryThing

Really 3 1/2 stars. There's a lot of interesting information here -- in particular Kennedy's stint as ambassador -- but the writing isn't terribly engaging. Parts of the book (everything involving ... Read full review


Praise for The Patriarch
School Days
Making a Million
My Own Master in My Own Business
Gloria and Rose
This Country Is at War with Germany
The Lives of Americans Are at Stake
The Fall of France
The Worst of Times
A Forced Retirement
A Melancholy Business
The Candidates Father
Family Matters

Last Exit from Hollywood
On the Roosevelt Train
Waiting for the Call
To Washington
Reelecting Roosevelt
Maritime Commissioner
A Plainspoken Ambassador
A Rather Dreadful Homecoming
The Kennedy Plan
Sidelined and Censored
The Great Debate
The Next Senator from Massachusetts
Making Money and Giving It Away
The Catholic Candidate
Electing a President
He Belongs to the Country
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About the author (2012)

DAVID NASAW is the author of Andrew Carnegie, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, awarded the New-York Historical Society Prize in American History, and named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, winner of the Bancroft Prize for history and the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. 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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