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The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P.… (2012)

by David Nasaw

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360951,747 (3.99)15
"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."--

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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 Rosemary) are heartbreaking and the end of the book left me feeling that despite his power and wealth, the last decades of Kennedy's life were terribly sad. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
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 became a very wealthy man. But, rumors persist of the actions taken to obtain wealth. I can recall a rumor that Kennedy's wealth was due to bootlegging and insider information on the repeal of prohibition. It was suggested that JPK had boats waiting off shore of the east coast to capitalize on this change in American law. The author David Nasaw silences that innuendo by pointing out that no evidence of any such endeavor occurred. Nor the rumor of mob ties to Kennedy. American folklore at best. JPK's money came from investing, buying and selling. A substantial beginning to his wealth from initial and groundbreaking movie business investments. JPK was a talented business man, organizer and administrator with a conservative mindset to safeguarding his money in tax based trusts and real estate. Though JPK was criticized for his isolationist views -- suggestive of appeasement at the time -- serving as America's British ambassador during the initial rise of Nazi Germany and the start of WWII, Kennedy's approach now seems cautious and calculating. Kennedy favored negotiation over war; a business man's motive. He was not outside the American mainstream on staying out of Europe's affairs. Though President Roosevelt did not agree with JPK or generally consider him close, Kennedy nonetheless was a prominent figure of the time; greatly quoted and sought by the American press. Though it seems that Kennedy's work schedule and lifestyle keep him away from his family regularly, family was what it was about. The Kennedy name. JPK created an American legacy that persists to this day. ( )
  MikeBiever | Apr 26, 2017 |
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 Rosemary) are heartbreaking and the end of the book left me feeling that despite his power and wealth, the last decades of Kennedy's life were terribly sad. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
This is an unfailingly absorbing account of the life of its subject, from the date of his birth on Sept 6 1888--just two days after my father's birth--to the death on 18 Nov 1969, after suffering a debilitating stroke on Dec 19, 1961. The account of his life making his money in the 1920's, his becoming the first head of SEC (he knew all the bad things investors should not be allowed to do), his heading the Maritime Commission, and then his time as ambassador to Britain--he was sure Hitler would win and did not want the U.S to try to stop him!--and his time after the war, when he was absorbed by the lives of his children. He played a big role in Jack's attaining the presidency, furnishing the money and advice which was sometimes accepted. It is a totally fascinating account, and there is not a dull page.in the book. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Jun 21, 2015 |
A wonderful book for readers who enjoy American 20th century political and business stories.

Initially I was skeptical that the author could be objective as the Kennedy family reportedly facilitated the writing of this biography. While they provided author Nasaw unfettered access to JPK's papers, they also reportedly had no final review of the book prior to publication. And it's hard to believe the Kennedy's would approve all that's printed here. It's surprisingly well-balanced, well researched, wonderfully written account of one of the most interesting businessmen of the 20th century.

Nasaw tells the not-quite rags to riches story of JPK, including many details of how he built his business empire as a banker, Hollywood producer, importer of Scotch whiskey post Prohibition, real estate tycoon. Many political and even business biographies gloss over the details of their subjects. Nasaw provides just enough of the facts for both the early businesses as well as some of the bigger later ones (how much he paid for the Chicago Merchandise Mart and how he managed the property) to make this of great interest to even a casual business reader. Nasaw also details the terms of the Kennedy family trusts and values.

But what surprises the most is how much more thorough Nasaw is with the political side of JPK's life. Following a successful career in business, JPK supported FDR and became the nation's first SEC administrator. When he completed a brief but almost universally praised tenure there, FDR gave him a second role that eventually earned him a job JPK really coveted: ambassador to England pre-WWII. It was there the first time that JPK stumbled professionally and Nasaw explains in perfect cadence how and why. Mixing the political with the business, Nasaw dissects Kennedy's strengths and weaknesses in a highly readable and entertaining fashion.

Much of the book of course is also about the Kennedy family. Again Nasaw manages to find details about the Kennedy family that are often not reported, but more importantly, Nasaw explains insights into the Kennedy family dynamic that are unique to most of the Kennedy bio-pics previously published. JFK is viewed throughout the book strictly from the viewpoint of his once more famous father as a young boy, teen, young man, young politico and finally president. That slow build itself is worth taking the time to read this fine book.

The book ends, fittingly, with JPK's death with no extended analysis of his life. While there's much commentary about the impact of his life on his children, grandchildren and his country throughout the book, I get the sense that Nasaw had even more to share but realizing he was approaching 900 printed pages (another reason to read this on an digital device), but cut it off a bit short. I'd like to hear more from him. ( )
  kenkarpay | Sep 3, 2014 |
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(Introduction) Joseph P. Kennedy was a man of boundless talents, magnetic charm, relentless energy, and unbridled ambition.
The Kennedy saga, like that of so many American families, begins with an ancestor's escape from poverty and oppression.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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."--

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