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

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

by David Nasaw

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101595916
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/13/2012
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 896
Sales rank: 119,359
File size: 7 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Cast of Characters ix

Introduction xix

Part I East Boston to Cambridge to Brookline 1

1 Dunganstown to East Boston 3

2 School Days 16

3 Starting Out 32

4 War 47

5 Making a Million 58

Part II Hollywood 83

6 "My Own Master in My Own Business" 85

7 Hollywood 105

8 Gloria and Rose 128

9 Last Exit from Hollywood 149

Part III Washington 165

10 On the Roosevelt Train 167

11 Waiting for the Call 185

12 To Washington 204

13 Reelecting Roosevelt 238

14 Maritime Commissioner 254

Part IV London 281

15 A Plainspoken Ambassador 283

16 A Rather Dreadful Homecoming 312

17 Munich 323

18 The Kennedy Plan 348

19 Sidelined and Censored 371

20 "This Country Is at War with Germany" 399

21 The Lives of Americans Are at Stake 408

22 Defeatist 427

23 The Fall of France 444

24 The Worst of Times 457

25 There's Hell to Pay Tonight 473

Part V Washington, but Briefly 487

26 Home Again 489

27 The Man Who Out-Hamleted Hamlet 505

Part VI Palm Beach and Hyannis Port 523

28 A Forced Retirement 525

29 War 538

30 "A Melancholy Business" 570

31 The Candidate's Father 591

32 Family Matters 610

33 "The Great Debate" 632

34 The Next Senator from Massachusetts 652

35 Retirement 671

36 Making Money and Giving It Away 692

37 The Catholic Candidate 709

38 Electing a President 726

39 "He Belongs to the Country" 749

40 "No!" 775

Acknowledgments 789

Notes 793

Bibliography of Works Cited 829

Index 835

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."

“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

Customer Reviews

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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. 33 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.
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
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.
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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