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JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956

af Fredrik Logevall

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2597104,992 (4.21)1
"By the time of his assassination in 1963, John F. Kennedy stood at the helm of the greatest power the world had ever seen, a booming American nation he had steered through some of the most perilous diplomatic standoffs of the Cold War era. Born in 1917 to a striving Irish American family that had ascended the ranks of Boston's labyrinthine political machine, Kennedy was bred for government, and his meteoric rise to become the youngest president ever cemented his status as one of the most mythologized political figures in American history. And yet, in the decades since his untimely death, hagiographic portrayals of his dazzling charisma, reports of his extramarital affairs, and disagreements over his political legacy have made our 35th president more mysterious than ever--a problem further exacerbated by the fact that no genuinely comprehensive account of his life has yet been attempted. Beckoned by this gap in our historical knowledge, Fredrik Logevall has spent seven years searching for the "real" JFK. The result of this prodigious effort is a sweeping two-volume biography that, for the first time, properly contextualizes Kennedy amidst the roiling American Century. Beginning with the three generations of Kennedy men and women who transformed the clan from working-class Irish immigrants to members of Boston's political elite, Volume One spans the first thirty-nine years of JFK's life, from sickly second son to restless Harvard undergraduate and World War II hero, through his ascendance on Capitol Hill and, finally, his decision to run for president. In chronicling Kennedy's extraordinary life and times, Logevall offers the clearest portrait we have of an iconic, yet still elusive, American president."--… (mere)
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Viser 1-5 af 7 (næste | vis alle)
Excellent book on JFK 1917-1956 and the surrounding events of his life
  zacherlaw1 | Nov 24, 2023 |
4.25 ( )
  DanielSTJ | Jun 11, 2022 |
I must admit, having read a few biographies of JFK already, that the principal draw of Logevall's two parter was the cover, for which I was gifted and read the book in hardback (my poor wrists!) The author claims in his preface that 'few serious biographies of [JFK] have been attempted', yet goes on to quote from Nigel Hamilton's Reckless Youth and Robert Dallek's An Unfinished Life amongst others. Unavoidable when writing about a famous subject like Kennedy but I wouldn't have claimed to be blazing a trail in his place.

Volume one also covers well trodden topics, from JFK's family history to his unsuccessful 1956 bid for vice president. The first section is an echo of Reckless Youth and David Pitt's Jack and Lem, with Jack and chip off the old block Joe Jr's battle for family supremacy leading into World War Two. Logevall notes that a principal theme of the biography is how Kennedy's life story tracks with American history, and the star of the story is almost eclipsed by the author's history lesson (which happens again with the Cold War and Vietnam, two pet subjects of Logevall's bibliography). Much of the second part concerns Papa Joe's isolationist perspective on the war while serving as US ambassador in London, which everyone knows about and doesn't really involve Jack, but as Logevall warns, 'WWII occupies a central place in this book'. Jack is returned to centre stage with the sinking of PT 109, which is painted in a sympathetic light here, and Joe Jr 's suicide mission and subsequent death closes the second - main? - part of the book and leads into JFK's political career in earnest, from Congress to the first steps towards the White House. Jackie also earns a chapter, with Logevall borrowing from Barbara Leaming and Sarah Bradford.

I appreciated Logevall's fair approach to JFK - 'The man universally known by his initials has been swept away by mythology', the author observes, and we need to 'look the man right in the eye, not up in adulation or down in disdain'. On a sliding scale of hero-worship to mudslinging, Logevall seems to err on the side of lenience, and that's all right by me! Young Jack was 'the family reader, the daydreamer, the introspective son', part of the Kennedy clan yet also outside of the unit, and 'on matters of politics and policy, JFK was always his own master'. Logevall rejects the theory that Jack was forced into politics after the death of his brother and then made to dance to his father's political tune. So much has been written about JFK, mostly in an attempt to drag him off his pedestal, that Logevall is right to want to start at the beginning and find the real man behind the myth.

This is a thorough, well-researched tome covering the first forty or so years of John F Kennedy's life, leading up to the precipice of the White House. I'm not sure how much of the general background history, particularly of the war, could have been cut, or to what extent I found the book repetitive because I've read it all before. I started reading two years ago and gave up, only to charge in again with renewed interest and determination, and yet still had to slog through some sections. Not sure if I'll bother with volume two. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Apr 2, 2022 |
This was a mammoth undertaking. No detail was overlooked in providing us with a comprehensive first volume biography of JFK. I've rated it as I did (3.5 stars) because of the sheer amount of info thrown at you. Sometimes, it can be too much and can bog you down in the minutiae of details of JFK's political life. I lived for the snippets of personal life. The years as the son of the American ambassador in London were my favorite period covered in the book.

I wouldn't recommend this for any first timers who are looking to get their feet wet with the life of JFK. This is more for seasoned veterans interested in a deeper look at the man. ( )
  briandrewz | Feb 23, 2022 |
Volume one covering the life of this iconic statesman from 1917 to the 1956 election. The book begins by giving us a brief ancestral profile of the Kennedys and Fitzgeralds. These ties are important as it builds the foundation of how wealth and political connection eventually steers and propels young Jack into his own career.

So much has been written on the Kennedy family arguably in some aspects our royalty, on the political scene anyway. This book adds to much we knew and some interesting and even tantalizing things we probably didn't. The enormity of Joseph seniors influence of course is known, but the enormity of the wealth he created I didn't. In todays dollars certainly a billionaire. Though we can't buy elections, well to a certain extent anyway, it certainly helped Jack Kennedy immensely in paving the way to his early political success. Kennedy did not have to work his way up from the bottom rung financially but he did have to earn his stripes in the rough and tumble of Massachusetts machine politics; and he certainly did knocking off a powerhouse in Henry Cabot Lodge Sr. for the Senate seat.

It was interesting to learn how Jack really did seem to be his own man in his political views, so unlike his businessman father who couldn't cut it on the political scene despite his driven attempt. Much like another well known businessman we all know who found the political terrain not as malleable as business turf. Joe Kennedy struggled and Jack not so much as he steered a different direction from his father; and surprisingly Joe allowed this independence in thought and direction.

We also get many insights here to the human side of the man. A personality profile that may not have been quite so obvious in the political masquerade and the media adulation. Jack was no doubt a complex man. Simplistic and unrelenting in his personal needs and drives coupled with an almost introspective nature that was so unlike his rowdy family members. We also get a good dose of how his older dominant brother overshadowed him, yet Jack outdid him in his own ways. The competition certainly could have contributed to Joe Jr's demise in the war. And how different would things have played out if he had lived. There is a good perspective laid out on his fragile health and the serious conditions and treatments that would have caused anyone pause had the full extent been known.

Here too we get a fairly good read on his marriage and the similar complexity of his relationship with Jackie. How she complimented him with her social graces yet suffered through his unremitting womanizing that got a pass from the media that covered political events not so much personal events.

On balance a very good insightful read and I should mention much to add on how Kennedy the politician formed his views particularly on the international arena. And yet leaves open the question we will ever ponder; how would he have handled the Vietnam quagmire? This first volume was first rate and made me note to watch for the conclusion of this most fascinating man and the political footprint he left that never has been quite filled. ( )
  knightlight777 | Jan 6, 2021 |
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"By the time of his assassination in 1963, John F. Kennedy stood at the helm of the greatest power the world had ever seen, a booming American nation he had steered through some of the most perilous diplomatic standoffs of the Cold War era. Born in 1917 to a striving Irish American family that had ascended the ranks of Boston's labyrinthine political machine, Kennedy was bred for government, and his meteoric rise to become the youngest president ever cemented his status as one of the most mythologized political figures in American history. And yet, in the decades since his untimely death, hagiographic portrayals of his dazzling charisma, reports of his extramarital affairs, and disagreements over his political legacy have made our 35th president more mysterious than ever--a problem further exacerbated by the fact that no genuinely comprehensive account of his life has yet been attempted. Beckoned by this gap in our historical knowledge, Fredrik Logevall has spent seven years searching for the "real" JFK. The result of this prodigious effort is a sweeping two-volume biography that, for the first time, properly contextualizes Kennedy amidst the roiling American Century. Beginning with the three generations of Kennedy men and women who transformed the clan from working-class Irish immigrants to members of Boston's political elite, Volume One spans the first thirty-nine years of JFK's life, from sickly second son to restless Harvard undergraduate and World War II hero, through his ascendance on Capitol Hill and, finally, his decision to run for president. In chronicling Kennedy's extraordinary life and times, Logevall offers the clearest portrait we have of an iconic, yet still elusive, American president."--

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