Synopses & Reviews
An Unfinished Life
is the first authoritative single-volume life of John F. Kennedy to be written in nearly four decades. Drawing upon firsthand sources, freshly unearthed documents, and never-before-opened archives, prizewinning historian Robert Dallek reveals more than we ever knew about Jack Kennedy, forever changing the way we think about his life, his presidency, and his legacy.
In a tale that stretches back to Ireland, An Unfinished Life describes the birth of the Kennedy dynasty, the complexity of Jack's early years, and the mixture of adulation and resentment that tangled his relationships with his mother, Rose, and his father, Joseph. Forced into the shadow of his older brother Joe, Jack struggled to find a place for himself until World War II, when he became a national hero and launched his career. Dallek reveals for the first time the full story of Kennedy's wartime actions including the machinations that got him into the war despite severe disabilities and the true details of how Joe was killed, opening the door to Jack's ascendancy.
Here is the gripping story of Jack's first political campaigns and his transformation from an awkward speaker to a brilliant politician with irresistible charm. An Unfinished Life explores Jack's work as a senator from Massachusetts, carries us through the fiercely contested 1960 campaign against Nixon, and takes us on to the White House itself. We learn for the first time how and why Bobby was chosen to serve as Attorney General, how JFK selected Lyndon Johnson to be vice president, and how they and the rest of Kennedy's team Bundy, McNamara, Schlesinger, Sorenson, Rusk, and others faced the Bay of Pigs, threats against civil rights activists in the South, the conflict in Laos, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the struggle for a test ban treaty, and the assassination of Diem. Dallek reveals fascinating new details about each of these challenges and many more, and gives us a picture of Kennedy as a man very much in command of his times able, soon after arriving in the Oval Office, to wage a secret war against his own generals when they advocated first use of atomic bombs in situations Kennedy felt certain would lead to an all-out nuclear war.
An Unfinished Life also discloses for the very first time that Kennedy was far sicker than we ever knew. While laboring to present an image of robust good health, Kennedy was secretly in and out of hospitals throughout his life, so ill that he was administered last rites on several different occasions. Kennedy's ever-worsening health left him propped up by a secret combination of medications throughout his presidency, while behind closed doors he required assistance for even such basic acts as climbing stairs. The revelations about Kennedy's health throughout this biography force a complete reevaluation of Kennedy's reputation and provide a fuller look inside his life and his motivations than has ever before been possible.
Robert Dallek has created a vivid portrait of a man who, because he knew how close he was to death, lived as much as he could sometimes hurting others in the process. We meet a young Jackie, follow their courtship, and watch their marriage in public and private. Dallek explores Kennedy's many infidelities, revealing some for the first time ever. An Unfinished Life also gives us a brilliantly detailed portrait of the deep bond between Jack and Bobby, and of their enduringly complicated relationship with their father.
Never shying away from Kennedy's weaknesses, Dallek also brilliantly explores his strengths. The result is a full portrait of a bold, brave, human Kennedy, once again a hero. An Unfinished Life is the book Americans have been waiting forty years to read. Now, at long last, we have the definitive biography of Jack Kennedy.
"In this riveting tour de force...Dallek delivers what will most assuredly become the benchmark JFK biography for this generation....Dallek is to be thanked for providing the thoroughly researched, well-sourced, responsible and readable biography that has for so long been wanting in Kennedy scholarship." Publishers Weekly
"Cutting through the haze of distortions and myths which have encased John F. Kennedy's legacy, An Unfinished Life sets the historical record straight. Granted special access to a treasure trove of new documents, Robert Dallek tells the story of Kennedy's dazzling life with scholarly detachment, shrewd analysis, and pitch-perfect prose. An Unfinished Life is hands-down the best biography of JFK the American president and icon who refuses to fade away. A truly remarkable achievement." Douglas Brinkley, author of The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House and Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans
"A stellar work by one of our finest historians, as candid and penetrating as it is balanced and judicious." James MacGregor Burns, Jetson School of Leadership Studies, author of Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox
"An Unfinished Life is one of the most engrossing biographies I have ever read. Robert Dallek's superbly informed account of John F. Kennedy's triumphant public life makes a magnificent counterpoint to his fascinating revelations about Kennedy's history of illness and pain. An Unfinished Life is nothing less than a masterpiece." David Herbert Donald, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Charles Warren Professor Emeritus of History and American Civilization, Harvard University; author of Lincoln
An Unfinished Life
is the first major, single-volume life of John F. Kennedy to be written by a historian in nearly four decades. Drawing upon previously unavailable material and never-before-opened archives to tell Kennedys story. We learn for the first time just how sick Kennedy was, what medications he took and concealed from all but a few, and how severely his medical condition affected his actions as President. We learn for the first time the real story of how Bobby was selected as Attorney General. Dallek reveals exactly what Jack's father did to help his election to the presidency, and he follows previously unknown evidence to show what path JFK would have taken in the Vietnam entanglement had he survived.
Dallek lifts JFK out of the gossips and back onto the world stage, showing that while he was the son of privilege, he faced great obstacles and fought on with remarkable courage. Never shying away from Kennedy's weaknesses, Dallek also brilliantly explores his strengths. The result is a portrait of a bold, brave, human Kennedy, once again a hero.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -811) and index.
The #1 bestseller that forever changed how we thought about JFK, published with a new epilogue in time for the 50th
anniversary of Kennedy's assassination.
When it was originally published in 2003, AN UNFINISHED LIFE brought to light new revelations about JFK's health, his love affairs, his brothers and father, and the path JFK would have taken in the Vietnam entanglement if he had survived. A blockbuster bestseller, the book was embraced by critics and readers as a landmark assessment of our 35th president. Now, in time for what promises to be remarkable media attention on Kennedy's death and legacy, AN UNFINISHED LIFE returns with a new, strikingly incisive examination by Robert Dallek in which he further assesses JFK's impact and hold on American culture.
Everywhere acclaimed for its compelling narrative, its fresh insights, and its dispassionate appraisal of John F. Kennedy's presidency, this #1 national bestseller is the first full-scale single-volume biography of JFK to be written by a historian in nearly four decades. Drawing on previously unavailable material and never-before-opened archives, An Unfinished Life is packed with revelations large and small - about JFK's health, his love affairs, RFK's appointment as Attorney General, what Joseph Kennedy did to help his son win the White House, and the path JFK would have taken in the Vietnam entanglement had he survived. Robert Dallek succeeds as no other biographer has done in striking a critical balance - never shying away from JFK's weaknesses, brilliantly exploring his strengths - as he offers up a vivid portrait of a bold, brave, complex, heroic, human Kennedy.
For the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy comes a sure-to-be-controversial argument that by virtually any standard, JFK was far more conservative than liberal.
A startling reconsideration of John F. Kennedy’s record and achievements
John F. Kennedy is lionized by liberals. He inspired LBJ to push for landmark civil rights laws. His “New Frontier” promised new spending on education and medical care for the elderly. His champions insist he would have done great liberal things had he not been killed by Lee Harvey Oswald.
But what if we judge him by the lengthy record of his actual political career, in historical perspective? What if this hero of liberals was, in fact, the opposite of a liberal?
As Ira Stoll convincingly argues, by the standards of both his time and our own, John F. Kennedy was a conservative. His two great causes were anticommunism and economic growth. His tax cuts, which spurred one of the greatest economic booms in our history, were fiercely opposed by his more liberal advisers. He fought against unions. He pushed for free trade and a strong dollar. And above all, he pushed for a military buildup and an aggressive anticommunism around the world. Indeed, JFK had more in common with Ronald Reagan than with LBJ.
Not every Republican is a true heir to Kennedy, but hardly any Democrats deserve that mantle. JFK, Conservative is sure to appeal to conservative readers — and will force liberals to reconsider one of their icons.
and#160; The year 2013 is the 50th anniversary year of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, who still ranks as one of the top five presidents in every major annual survey. To commemorate the man and his time in office, the New York Times
has authorized a book, edited by Richard Reeves, based on its unsurpassed coverage of the tumultuous Kennedy era. The Civil Rights Movement, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, the space program, the Berlin Walland#151;all are covered in articles by the eraand#8217;s top reporters, among them David Halberstam, Russell Baker, and James Reston. Also included are new essays by leading historians such as Robert Dallek and Terry Golway, and by Times
journalists, including Sam Tanenhaus, Scott Shane, Alessandra Stanley, and Roger Cohen. With more than 125 color and black-and-white photos, this is
the ultimate volume on one of historyand#8217;s most fascinating figures.
and#147;This book is both fascinating and poignant. It brings us back into the Kennedy years while also allowing us to reflect on what made them so emotional. I found myself totally immersed."
and#151;Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
and#160;and#147;A deeply illuminating, journalistic romp through Camelot from the eyes and minds of the great New York Times reporters of that era and beyond. Itand#8217;s an important contribution to our nationand#8217;s ever growing U.S. presidential history library. Richard Reeves has corralled the best and the brightest Kennedy scholars to offer fact-checked wisdom. Highly recommended.and#8221; and#160;
and#151;Douglas Brinkley, author of Cronkite, The Wilderness Warrior, and The Great Deluge.and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; and#160;
and#160;and#147;The New York Timesand#8217; rendering of the Kennedy years provides much more than a riveting first draft of history. Here we also witness the birth of modern America. The daily presence of thepresident and his family through modern media all started with Kennedy. As we follow his presidency in real time, aided by context from Richard Reeves and others, we come to understand better much of whatand#160; is happening in the country today.and#8221;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; and#160;
and#151;Cokie Roberts, political commentator for ABC and NPR and author of Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation
and#147;A terrific introduction to the Kennedy presidency for those who did not live through it, and a startling reminder for those who did of how much happened in those 1,000 days, this compilation from The New York Times reveals the essential truth of the old adage that journalism is the rough draft of history. Commentaries by historians and current Times reporters fill in the gaps between what the journalists reported then and what we know now.and#8221;
and#151;David Nasaw, author of The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
About the Author
Robert Dallek is one of the most highly regarded historians in America, and the author of six books, including the acclaimed two-volume of Lyndon Johnson, Lone Star Rising and Flawed Giant. His Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy won the 1980 Bancroft Prize and was nominated for an American Book Award, and American Style of Foreign Policy was a 1983 New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
Table of Contents
1. PT 109 9
2. Congressman 17
3. Senator Kennedy 38
4. Presidential Campaign 53
5. Transition and Inauguration 80
6. The New Frontier: Domestic Policy 94
7. Tax Cutter 122
8. The Cold War and the Freedom Doctrine 140
9. The Death of a President 181
10. Passing the Torch 197