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The Patriarch

The life of Joseph Kennedy through The Patriarch proved a fantastic read. Banker. Hollywood film mogul. Stock Speculator. SEC Chairman. Maritime Commissioner. Ambassador. Father to a President.

No evidence of being a rum runner, which apparently is a false myth with odd origins stemming from conspiracy theorists trying to tie the Kennedy’s to organized crime. (Update, The Irishman certainly makes it easy to see why these rumors were stated, and suggests maybe there is more truth to it than The Patriarch author suggests. After reading both books, let me know what you decide!)

In any event, the life resume was impressive.

Suffering through the death of three children and a failed lobotomy of another, such a prosperous life was simultaneously filled with tragedies. Perhaps best summed up by this passage at the end of the novel:

For sixty years, Joseph P. Kennedy had imposed himself and his will on family members, friends, and acquaintances, on those he worked for or with, on political associates, business colleagues, and the hundreds of topside and not so topside men and women he came into contact with. Now, suddenly, on day 322 of his son’s presidential term, three months into his seventy-fourth year, he was in an instant transformed from the most vital, the smartest, the dominant one in the room to a gnarled, crippled, drooling, speechless, wheelchair-bound, utterly dependent shell of a man. His right arm and leg were paralyzed, his right hand had frozen into a clawlike appendage curled up at the wrist; the right side of his face drooped; he could not dress himself, feed himself, shave or shower, or communicate his thoughts, desires, fears, or hopes in spoken or written language.

“Every biography is at one and the same time the portrait of an individual and of an era.” This is one of the many reasons I enjoy reading biographies so much. The Patriarch proved no different as we are offered a particularly unique glimpse into the outbreak of WWII as Kennedy served frustratingly as the US Ambassador to Britain.

The book blends the fascinating life story of The Patriarch of perhaps America’s most famous family with a thorough overview of the era’s events. A long effort, but definitely worth the read!

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