The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys : An American Saga

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9780671231088: The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys : An American Saga

In its drama and scope, Doris Kearns Goodwin's The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys is one of the richest works of biography in the last decade. From the wintry day in 1863 when John Francis Fitzgerald was baptized, through the memorable moment ninety-eight years later when his grandson and namesake John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States, the author brings us every colorful inch of this unique American tapestry. Each character emerges unmistakenly, with the clarity and complexity of personal recollection: "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, the mayor of Boston and founder of his dynasty; his independent and shrewdly political daughter, Rose, and her husband, the cunning, manipulative Joseph P. Kennedy; finally, the "Golden trio" of Kennedy children--Joe Jr., Kathleen, and Jack--whose promise was eclipsed by the greater power of fate. With unprecedented access to the Kennedy family and to decades of private papers, Doris Kearns Goodwin has crafted a singular work of American history: It is at once the story of an era, of the immigrant experience, and--most of all--of two families, whose ambitions propelled them to unrivaled power and whose passions nearly destroyed them.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Four years ago ABC-TV bought this book for a 10-part miniseries. No wonder. This may be the ultimate family saga, the stuff of which producers' dreams are made. Beginning with the baptism of John Francis Fitzgerald (Rose's father) in 1863 and ending with a stirring account of JFK's inauguration in 1961, the story sweeps from the immigrant ghetto of Boston's North End to Camelot and takes in just about everything along the way: the rowdy heyday of "last hurrah" ward politics (in some ways, the best part of the book); Wall Street speculation in the 1920s; Hollywood and Joe's affair with Gloria Swanson; the New Deal; London society on the brink of war; the tragic loss of Joe Jr., the golden favored son; the exhausting political campaigns that finally catapulted an entire family to the pinnacle of international celebrity. With material like this, any writer would be tempted toward melodrama. Goodwin (Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream avoids this pitfall admirably, tones down the technicolor and serves up the wealth of incident with a pacing that doesn't let the reader's interest flag. She has made this more-than-twice-told tale fresh. Drawing on previously unavailable papersincluding Joe Kennedy's unpublished autobiographyshe makes the family, with all its contradictory interplay and immutable bonds, the focus of her story, and the result is personal and fascinating. No muckraking or scandalmongering here. This is an evenhanded, usually sympathetic treatment with very few skeletons poking out of the closet. Joe Sr., so often vilified, emerges as the most complex figure in the dynasty and the true driving force of the family. Rose, on the other hand, is aloof and rigid, displaying a piety that non-Catholic readers may see as fanaticism (even as her son was proclaiming his secularism to the electorate, Rose was consulting a priest about removing Hugo's Les Miserables from her personalthe local, or her personal? library). One shocker: Joe ordered a lobotomy performed on retarded daughter Rosemary without telling Rose. The operation failed, and Rosemary was sent to an institution. Rose only learned the truth 20 years later, when she finally went to visit her daughter. Given the tragic family events that were to follow, one almost wishes Goodwin hadn't stopped in 1961, but her story is really about the triumph of the immigrant experience in America; and the inauguration, with JFK tipping his top hat to his proud father, certainly makes a dramaticok? finish. Unless the reading public's interest in the Kennedy clan has waned, this should be an immensely popular book. Photos not seen by PW. Literary Guild main selection.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

Opening with the 1863 baptism of John F. Fitzgerald, and closing with his grandson's presidential inaugural a century later, this is the richest history yet of two much-chronicled families. Unprecedented access to papers and persons has allowed Goodwin ( Lyndon Johnson and the A mer i can Dream ) to present fresh material throughout, including an especially full treatment of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. Essentially sympathetic, but above all balanced, her book measures the "moral lapse" dwelt upon by otherssuch as Peter Collier and David Horowitz in The Kennedys ( LJ 9/15/84)alongside epic tragedy and success. In becoming president John Kennedy forged himself from the ambition of his father and the piety of his mother, and drew upon the lives portrayed here across three generations in milieus ranging from the wards of Irish Boston to royal London, to Hollywood, to Washington. An essential purchase. Literary Guild main selection. Robert F. Nardini, M.L.S., Chichester, N.H.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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