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Extended Audio Sample The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, by David Nasaw Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (413 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David Nasaw Narrator: Malcolm Hillgartner Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Celebrated historian David Nasaw brings to life the story of Joseph Patrick Kennedy in this first and only biography based on unrestricted and exclusive access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy—whose life spanned the First World War, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Cold War—was the patriarch of America’s greatest political dynasty. The father of President John F. Kennedy and senators Robert and Edward Kennedy, Joe Kennedy was an indomitable and elusive figure whose dreams of advancement for his nine children were matched only by his extraordinary personal ambition and shrewd financial skills. Trained as a banker, Kennedy was also a Hollywood mogul, a stock exchange savant, a shipyard manager, the founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and ambassador to London during the Battle of Britain. Though his incredible life encompasses the very heart of the American century, Joseph Kennedy has remained shrouded in rumor and prejudice for decades.

Drawing on never-before-published material from archives on three continents, David Nasaw—the renowned biographer of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst—unearths a man far more complicated than the popular portrait. Was Kennedy an appeaser and isolationist, an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer, a stock swindler, a bootlegger, and a colleague of mobsters? Did he push his second son into politics and then buy his elections for him? Why did he have his daughter Rosemary lobotomized? Why did he oppose the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and American assistance to the French in Vietnam? What was his relationship to J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI? How did he influence his son’s politics and policies in the White House? In this groundbreaking biography Nasaw ignores the tired old answers surrounding Kennedy, starting from scratch to discover the truth behind this misunderstood man.

Though far from a saint, Joseph Kennedy in many ways exemplifies the best in American political, economic, and social life. His rags-to-riches story is one of exclusion and quiet discrimination overcome by entrepreneurship, ingenuity, and unshakable endurance. Kennedy’s story deserves to be told in full, with no holds barred, and Nasaw’s magnificent The Patriarch is the first book to do so.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Riveting…The Patriarch is a book hard to put down…Brilliant.”

    Christopher Buckley, New York Times Book Review

  • “David Nasaw’s The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy is the sort of biography that begs to be called ‘magisterial.’”

    Boston Globe

  • “Mr. Nasaw has the rare ability to see the big picture and frame the detail with careful scholarship—all the while making room for elements that do not fit—which in Joe Kennedy’s case is quite a lot…Mr. Nasaw’s is a literate and searching exposition of the patriarch’s life that offers the reader compelling answers to questions about JPK…If The Patriarch doesn’t scoop up some serious accolades for the writing of American history, the fix is in.”

    Pittsburgh Post Gazette

  • “A major contribution to Kennedy history.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “[A] sprawling, highly readable biography of the dynast and larger-than-life figure whose presence still haunts American political life…Working from his subject’s extensive archives, Nasaw pieces together a sometimes-sympathetic, sometimes-critical view of Joseph P. Kennedy, father of John F. Kennedy and most definitely a man of parts…Exhaustive yet accessible, Nasaw’s book illuminates.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Nasaw captures the full humanity of his subject…This is truly a ‘definitive’ biography.”

    History Book Club

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books, Best Biography 2012
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, November 2012
  • A 2012 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
  • A 2012 USA Today Best Book
  • A 2013 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Biography/Autobiography
  • New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction, 2012
  • A 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Biography

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jason | 2/17/2014

    " What to say about this book? What to say about this man who sired perhaps (in my opinion) one of the greatest presidents in U. S. history? There is no doubt in my mind that Joseph P. Kennedy was nothing less than an unscrupulous human being...and to me, that's putting it lightly. The average reader upon going into reading this biography would be hard pressed upon completing it to find their head swimming. Not so for myself, a true Kennedy maven. I have read almost everything on the 35th president and his family over the years so for me there wasn't really that much new for me to learn here. I did however, enjoy learning more about JPK's Hollywood sojourn (especially his dalliances/affair with Gloria Swanson) and I found the portion of the book regarding his time as Ambassador to the Court of St. James utterly fascinating. So, why then would I only give the book 4 out of 5 stars? Simply put, there were parts that I skimmed (or totally skipped) over. I thought that the background of the forebears of the Kennedy family and their early forays into the political world of Boston and its surrounding environment was great, seeing how we know that one of its descendants received the ultimate prize in American Politics generations later. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Natalie | 2/13/2014

    " Apart from the mind-numbingly dull and excessively long section on Joseph Kennedy's rise from banker to Wall Street speculator and real estate baron, I found this book to be a fascinating chronicle. It's aptly named and well worth the time it takes to get through its 750+ pages. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Peter Bistolarides | 2/12/2014

    " Interesting enough for the subject matter, but also gives great insight into some of the seminal events of US and world history in the 20th century. Some of them find their echoes in today's political and economic climate. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Shawn Thrasher | 2/6/2014

    " Painstakingly detailed almost to the point of dull. The first half is a "business biography" more than anything else, and David Nasaw makes meticulously sure that we all know how legally Kennedy made his millions. The second half is the political biography, showing Kennedy as a stubborn man who saw things in black and white, no shades of gray, and became increasingly pessimistic about the world and the state of capitalism. Joe and his indomitable clan don't come out smelling like a Rose, but their devotion to public service (second only to their self absorbed devotion to all things Kennedy) is still an admirable thing. By the end, you aren't sure whether you like the Kennedys or find them repulsive - can you do both? "

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