What, at this late date, could possibly be added to the oft-told story of the Kennedy clan?

Quite a lot it develops. Indeed, Goodwin's lengthy but unfailingly engrossing version provides fresh insights on the family's three-generation rise from the mean streets of Boston's North End to the White House—and the struggle of 19th-century immigrants to make their way in a not altogether hospitable land of opportunity. Herself the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, the author (an LBJ biographer and sometime Harvard historian) had access to a wealth of previously unexamined source material, notably 150-odd cartons of personal papers belonging to Joe and Rose Kennedy. She also had the cooperation of the family and friends, including matriarch Rose, whose memories were refreshed by the long-lost records, which ranged from her own diaries through business documents and report cards for the nine Kennedy kids. Happily, Goodwin's familiarity breeds neither contempt nor blarney. She offers and interprets the facts of a peculiarly American saga in commendably evenhanded fashion. Her three-part narrative opens with the 1863 baptism of John Francis (Honey Fitz) Fitzgerald, who gained local fame and fortune as a Bay State poi; it closes with the inauguration of his grandson, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, as the 35th President of the US. At stage center, though, are Rose, Honey Fitz's first and favorite daughter (a deeply religious but, by Goodwin's account, worldly-wise woman), and her husband, Joseph Patrick Kennedy. The founding father, who amassed a considerable fortune as an archetypal outsider, earned a reputation for ruthlessness and philandering. But to his children, the author shows, this tough-minded man was an unstintingly devoted and proud parent. The final section of the text focuses on the golden girl and two sons who were reaching adulthood as their father transcended the establishment that never wholly accepted him by becoming FDR's ill-starred ambassador to the Court of St. James. Joe Jr., bearer of the family's aspirations, was killed in action toward the end of WW II, and the beloved Kathleen, who against parental wishes married out of her Catholic faith, died in a plane crash a few years after the war. The torch was thus passed to JFK, who accepted it, albeit with some misgivings, and tacitly assented to a new bond with his demanding father.

An obvious must for Kennedy buffs. But also an evocatively detailed account of great achievement and dashed hopes, which supports Hardy's bleak conclusion that character is fate. There are scores of illustrations, many of which look to be candids from family photo albums.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1986

ISBN: 0743201752

Page Count: 996

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1986

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?