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Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  2,721 ratings  ·  338 reviews
“What was he like?”Jack Kennedy said the reason people read biography is to answer that basic question. With the verve of a novelist, Chris Matthews gives us just that. We see this most beloved president in the company of friends. We see and feel him close-up, having fun and giving off that restlessness of his. We watch him navigate his life from privileged, rebellious you ...more
Hardcover, 479 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2011)
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John Kelley
Here is my overall review:

I just finished reading Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. There is a deep lump in my throat. Chris Matthews captured in his book what has been missing in so many other books about Jack Kennedy - his soul. Maybe it is my empathy with Chris Matthews world. Forty years ago I was involved in doing graduate research on JFK; moving through the sources; interviewing Dave Powers; reading every single article and every single word Kennedy uttered. This was nearly 10 years after I saw
Chris Matthews' mind, razor sharp and astute in his political assessments, found its way to dissect the question of what draws Americans, to this day, to the compelling charm of JFK. Heroes, by their nature, if they are to be compelling, should be complex and flawed. What has always pulled me toward considering Jack Kennedy a hero in spite of his personal shortcomings was his complete grasp of history...his willingness to admit and learn from mistakes...a determination to fight for the common ma ...more
My father took this book out from the library when I came home for sophomore year's winter break. "It's new," he said, placing it on the kitchen counter. "I thought you'd want to read it."

It's no secret among family and friends that the Kennedys inspire me to see the compassion and wonder in politics that I so often forget is there. Until I read this book, however, it was always Bobby who I respected the most as a politician and a man, someone committed to truth and equality at home and abroad,
We people from Massachusetts think we know all about the Kennedys: bootlegging dad, mum as daughter of Mayor Honey Fitz, the daughter who had shock treatments, Joe Jr. killed in WWII, Bobby's civil rights work and sad end, Chappaquiddick, and, of course, all about Jack and Jackie. Well, some of us were wrong.

This book goes over territory that should be largely familiar, but brought to this Massachusetts resident lots of new telling details.

Such as:
- Joe Sr. didn't force JFK into politics; Jack
Vivian Valvano
A very worthwhile addition to the trove of books on JFK. I like the way Matthews used material available through the Oral History Project at the Kennedy Library as well as interviews with everyone he could find that was part of Kennedy's life and career. I like the way he blended such excellent reporting with careful research via the body of published materials and archived materials at so many different places and some hard to find written sources. I like the way he did not hesitate to express ...more
An excellent biography by Chris Matthews. I knew that Matthews has always admired John Kennedy and assumed this biography would paint a very glowing picture. So I was surprised at the profile of the young man who would do almost anything to get what he wanted. His mother didn't seem to care for him at all and he didn't get along well with his father. He was a sickly and lonely person who could never stand to be alone. While he had lifelong friends, he would shed them like a coat if they displeas ...more
I loved this book! I believe I have read every book ever written about JFK and all the Kennedy's and yet this one gave me an insight into Jack Kennedy the man in a way never experienced before. To be honest I don't really care for the author and his television work but the honesty and passion depicted by this book has truly touched my heart. If you are looking for a blow by blow account of JFK's life, this isn't the book you want. However if you are looking for a peek into the essence of the man ...more
Excellent biography. Extremely well written and researched. Quick, definite read.
I really sped through this, and enjoyed it immensely. It was an interesting perspective, and I think, justifies the intense interest in the Kennedys. It paints Jack Kennedy as a man, someone who liked practical jokes, and for all his personal flaws, was a brilliant and tactful politician. But what really sealed the deal for me was the end of the book. Chris Matthews had access to many of Kennedy's close friends. He recounts the interview with Life Magazine Jackie Kennedy gave about a week after ...more
You know from the title that Chris Matthews is going to write about a personal hero. But I was surprised at how thoughtful and readable this was. I have read several other biographies of Kennedy and yet I still learned to things. I enjoyed getting to know Kennedy as a leader in WWII. Also Mathews spends a lot more time on the campaigns then on the marriage to Jackie. The setting up of grassroots campaigns for senate and later for the presidency are of particular interest to Mathews. He loves the ...more
Matthews' thesis is that, whatever else you may think about JFK, he saved the world from the brink of nuclear war in the fall of 1962. He not only stared down Krushchev over the Soviet missles in Cuba, but he stared down Gen Lemay & the other chiefs of staff who were hot to make a preemptive strike on the USSR. JFK was not a perfect man - he did not have a great presidency - he was not King Arthur at Camelot - but he by God had his shining moment of heroism.

I first learned about this book wh
Irving Koppel

Chris Matthews has written an exciting,well-written,informative study of JFK's life. Most of us
have thought that there was no more to write;however,Matthews brings us such new information as how
dependent Jack was on a circle of close friends. He tells us that Rose was very chilly towards Jack.
The fact that Jack was given the last rites of the Catholic Church at least three times before he was
assassinated because he had been that near death. We never knew just how frail he was.He had a very bad
I was 14 yrs old when John F. Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic elected as President of the United States. I was 17 and a junior in high school when he was assassinated. My father, a WWII veteran, was enthusiastic about Kennedy's candidacy although he kept on telling me that he wasn't going to win. Everyone I knew pretty much was enthusiastic about Kennedy.

Of course I lived in something of a bubble: a working class row house neighborhood in Northeast Philly where you were, for the most pa
Carl Brush
Whatever your politics, if you’ve watched Chris Matthews on his “Hardball” TV show, you can’t fail to be impressed with his breezy, energetic delivery and his erudition about issues of the day. He writes just like he talks, and every page of Jack Kennedy resounds with his voice.
This is not an objective, or even an exhaustive biography. One might argue that you could learn as much about Kennedy from Caro’s deep-plunging biography of LBJ as from Jack Kennedy. However, it is a wide-ranging look at
Ralph Hermansen
Chris Matthew seems very proud of his new book. I know this because I have watched his TV show "Hardball" for years and I can sense a new excitement and personal pride when he talks about his new book. Having read it, I can see why he is so pleased with his creation. The book is easy to read, It moves along at a crisp pace. Moreover, I learned things about JFK that I didn't know before. For one, I knew JFK had medical problems, but I never realized how severe they were. It is amazing that someon ...more
I've never been a huge JFK fan. I guess that just knowing so much of the behind the scenes realities of his life, that it is hard to put myself in the position of those Americans of the early 1960s who saw him as such a figure of hope, optimism, and change. I really have no idea what he accomplished in his three years to be viewed as a top 10 president in more than one historical ranking.

If you've ever listened to Chris Matthews to any extent, you know about his Bill Clinton-esque hero worship o
Michele Weiner
What there was of this was fine, even interesting, but there wasn't much to it. Perhaps any comment is unfair because I didn't read the notes, which comprised a quarter of the total length of the book ----but a quick glance at the first page or two suggests that Matthews interviewed Tip O'Neill and some of the Irish Mafia, gave his notes to his son to organize for him, then wrote it up without further research. I don't know that this is true, but it looked like it. There were no footnotes, and I ...more
Fred Forbes
My father helped run Kennedy's campaign in New Hampshire and West Virginia and I, at age 14 got to meet Kennedy when he kicked off his primary campaign and again in Washington a couple of years later so I have quite a personal interest in his life and times. I enjoyed this book as it is a bit more casual in tone than most of the Kennedy bios and deals well with some heavy subjects. It does a good job of balancing the good and bad aspects of the man and provides some interesting family insight.
After a friend recommended this book, my first thought was "why do we need another book on JFK? But I trust his judgment and began reading. Glad I did, because Matthews has put together a balanced, yet loving, look at the man and his legacy. You'll find little new about Kennedy, but a different slant on his many accomplishments and, yes, his mistakes.

This book should be in every school's history library.
Jordan Jankus
A good overview of JFK, focusing on his accomplishments - the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Peace Corps and his Civil Rights advocacy - that does not spare the contradictions of his life - his affairs, his political accommodations and his remoteness, despite his tremendous charisma. However you view JFK, it is truly remarkable that the man was given last rights four times before achieving the Presidency, but despite his physical frailty, he pursued the extreme demands of politics. ...more
Jim Fromm
History recalled accurately.

This was a well researched book by a professional who obviously loves Kennedy. That said, I found it revealing and a most interesting read. As an individual who was in college when Kennedy was assassinated, he made a lasting and positive impact on my life. Chris does a wonderful job filling in the blanks of Jack and Jackie's relationship. Great men, make no mistake about it, often have great weaknesses which offset their greatness. Kennedy was a inspirational visionar
If you're a political junkie, you'll LOVE this book. Chris Matthews has "fleshed out" all the details of JFK's life written in a crisp manner, much like how he talks on "Hardball". However, if you're looking for gossip, this book is not for you, as there is no "gossipy" talk of the Kennedy family, which is refreshing.
Elaine Bennington
Never gotten over it

there is an entire generation of People who will never get over it--President Kennedy's assassination-- those of us in Catholic high schools at that time in the 60s who found a hero ideal in him. As a reporter for my high school paper, I got to shake his hand and ask him a few questions. I got to see his amazing smile close up, his tanned face and his blue pin striped suit. While I've met many celebs and politicians later in life, it was the first time I was so stunned by cha
yes, there is a lot of stuff that is well known in this book, but it is still a very insightful look at a man who could have done so much for this country if not killed. chris is a very good story teller. enjoyed this book very much.
Excellent biography of JFK. I learned things about the man and President that I did not know like how he suffered with pain and illnesses throughout his life but he never let it stop him from military and public service.
Wow!!!! What a great book...I've been finished with it since yesterday and find that I miss Kennedy.
Rich Olivito
simply wonderful and not at all, what I had thought when I began to read...Chris M does a masterful job of getting "to the inner side" of Jack Kennedy, whom despite so much having been written about him, truly brings the reader I think into the inner space of JFK like no other book has done

I think its among the best books about him and his character and his life, as told mainly thru the eyes of those so close to him all of his life, especially those in the adult political world of his but also,
I am a huge fan of Chris Matthews... I watch his show whenever I can and I've read many of his books. I had mixed feelings about reading this one... mainly because it seemed that there could be nothing much to say about President Kennedy that hasn't already been said. I am so glad I decided to read this book! Mr. Matthew's admiration for his subject was obvious and it was clear that this has been a lifelong project for him. The book was extensively researched.. the huge bibliography at the end ...more
So much of what people know today about President John Kennedy is mythical. This book attempts to
tell us a true story about this man. Chris Matthews wanted to give a real picture of him before the people who knew him best were all gone. Matthews tells the story from Kennedy's birth into a wealthy family to his untimely death at age 46. The family of President Kennedy had been involved in politics for years, but politics is not all. They made their money from illegal booze.
Matthews does not suga
A very good AND a very curious book. It would be interesting if Chris Matthews talked about how his opinions of JFK changed and evolved over the course of writing this book.

It is clear that Matthews -- like many of his generation and slightly after who went into politics as a profession (ahem!) -- was inspired in childhood, and beyond, by the idealism of Kennedy. He conveys very well what Kennedy meant at the time, DURING his life, to young, Catholics like Matthews. For those who have lived thr
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What are your thoughts on Jack Kennedy 3 27 Jan 18, 2014 04:57PM  
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Christopher "Chris" Matthews is an American news anchor and political commentator, known for his nightly hour-long talk show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, which is televised on the American cable television channel MSNBC. On weekends he hosts the syndicated NBC News-produced panel discussion program, The Chris Matthews Show. Matthews makes frequent appearances on many NBC and MSNBC programs. On M ...more
More about Chris Matthews...
Hardball: How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked Life's a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions

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“It was his detachment that saved us. Another man would have reacted with force to the Soviet treachery. He would have shared the righteousness of the cause, been stirred to attack by the saber rattling. Jack resisted. He was not moved by the emotion of other around him. He knew his course and stayed to it. Thank God. The boy who had read alone of history's heroes was now safely on of them. He had done it not winning a war, but by averting one far more horrible than any leader in the past could have imagined." - p.373” 2 likes
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