Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Jack 1939” as Want to Read:
Jack 1939
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Jack 1939

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  959 Ratings  ·  256 Reviews
Charming. Reckless. Brilliant. Deadly.

A young Jack Kennedy travels to Europe on a secret mission for Franklin Roosevelt as the world braces for war.

It’s the spring of 1939, and the prospect of war in Europe looms large. The United States has no intelligence service. In Washington, D.C., President Franklin Roosevelt may run for an unprecedented third term and needs someone
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published July 5th 2012 by Riverhead Hardcover
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Jack 1939, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Jack 1939

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I tried hard with this one, but it just wasn't striking the ol' ring-a-ding-ding for me...
I stayed with it all the way to the halfway mark, which is pretty generous on my part. Not only does it feel contrived, it seems to be a deliberate smearing of the Kennedy family. I'm well aware of Joe Senior's pecker-dilloes, and his weird political ideas, and the manipulations that made him a wealthy man, but he had good qualities as well. He raised several fine sons who gave their all, and their lives, w
Jul 04, 2012 Grady rated it it was amazing
A Terrific Blend of Fact and Fictionalized History

Francine Matthews after twenty some novels knows her craft. She also writes under the name Stephanie Barron and has gained a large following for her series of novels centered on Jane Austen mysteries. Another factor that makes her the obvious choice of server of this excellent novel is the fact that she served as an analyst for the CIA. Blend these ingredients an out comes this intensely entertaining novel JACK 1939 a story whose central characte
JoAnne Pulcino
JACK 1939

Francine Mathews

JACK 1939 is a brilliantly conceived and intriguing espionage thriller. Ms. Mathews has done a superb job of placing a 20th century iconic historical figure in an improbable fantasy that encourages you to believe that the man, the story and the situations could be true and makes the read truly fascinating.

War in Europe is imminent but a 22 year old John Fitzgerald Kennedy decides to travel through Europe to research his Harvard senior thesis. President Franklin Delano Ro
Patrice Hoffman
Jun 25, 2012 Patrice Hoffman rated it really liked it
*I won this book through a goodreads giveaway. It is an uncorrected proof edition.

I wasn't sure what to expect when reading this book. I thought maybe John F. Kennedy would be some sort of secret 007 with a bunch of fancy gadgets. Luckily, this wasn't that book. It was accurate to the time and to the equipment of the time.

A summary of the book is that Jack Kennedy is recruited by Pres. Roosevelt to be a spy for him. Kennedy's cover is that he's researching for his senior thesis. The president's
Cathy Cole
Jun 11, 2012 Cathy Cole rated it really liked it
First Line: "...patient's 6000 cell count at intake," Dr. George Taylor wrote, "has dropped to 3500."

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has secretly decided to run for an unprecedented third term in office. He knows that Europe is on the brink of another world war, and he believes more in his own abilities to carry the United States through than he does in any of his likely successors. But he does need someone he can trust to find out what the Nazis are up to. Since the United States does not h
Dana Stabenow
Mar 20, 2016 Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it
Shelves: hpl-s-15-in-16
What if FDR sent a twenty-one year old JFK to Europe on the very eve of World War II itself in order to find out if and how Hitler is smuggling money into the US to influence the next election?

"I've been turning it over in my mind, Jack--this trip of yours," the President was saying. "To the Nazis, you're just the American ambassador's son. But to me, you're a perfect spy. My independent thinker. Arriving in London with a fresh outlook and an unclouded mind. As far as the Nazis are concerned, yo
R. Honey
Jul 11, 2012 R. Honey rated it it was amazing
***** STARS

JACK 1939 = 007!

If Roosevelt and Dashiel Hammet were alive they would say "darn good spy yarn". .This is actually what this novel is.
In winter,1939 Jack,second and so far unremarkable also ran son of Joseph Kennedy,ambassador to England is summoned by
President Roosevelt just before he is to sail for England on the Queen Mary in early 1939. He is going to see his
Family in London but also plans to tour Europe for his Harvard senior thesis. Which later became Why England Slept.
Using thi
Sep 01, 2012 Jaylia3 rated it really liked it
Mostly wonderful

Could young JFK have been a pre-WWII spy for FDR? Author Francine Mathews has done her historical homework and created a mostly wonderful story that makes the possibility seem plausible. In 1939 the then 22-year-old John Kennedy was in fact roaming around the hot spots of Europe. His father Joe Kennedy was the American ambassador to Britain, and while the senior Kennedy supported Neville Chamberlin’s policy of appeasing Hitler to avoid war, JFK’s own writings indicate his thinkin
Carol Storm
Sep 28, 2013 Carol Storm rated it it was amazing
Explosive, heart-stopping suspense! Sizzling forbidden love! Heart breaking tragedy!

As a reader who doesn't really care for spy novels or espionage, I was blown away by JACK: 1939. The historical details were amazing and totally believable. Not only that, but the personal, family, and medical background of real-life President John F. Kennedy were not only meticulously researched and perfect, but they added to the suspense and danger on every page.

Summer 1939. War in Europe is inevitable. Jack
Joe Cummings
May 24, 2016 Joe Cummings rated it really liked it
I never thought that someone from my generation could write a novel about JFK. He was/is too much a part of our lives. Stephen King sort of did with 11/22/63, but that was more about preventing the assassination than about Kennedy himself.

Just as everyone the my parent's generation (aka the Greatest Generation) can remember where they were on Pearl Harbor day, everyone in my generation (aka the Baby Boomers) remember where they were when they heard the news from Dallas. For us, Kennedy was the
Jul 04, 2012 Tina rated it really liked it
In 1939, the US had no spy service, no CIA, and had to rely on the intuition of its leaders along with unofficial reports on the actions of world leaders and governments for the nation's security. As Europe ground inexorably toward another war in 1939, President Roosevelt needed to get information quickly, quietly, and completely outside State department channels. At the same time, Jack Kennedy, son of the US Ambassador to the Court of St. James (England) was planning to spend the summer and a ...more
Gordon Paisley
Jul 26, 2012 Gordon Paisley rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who enjoy WW2 historical fiction
Really wish I could have given it 4.5 stars.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary advance copy of this book with the expectation that I would provide an honest review.

I enjoy historical fiction and I am always intrigued by the idea of a story where an author undertakes to fill in the gaps of history with her idea of what might have happened. The author has researched Kennedy’s itinerary in the spring and summer of 1939 and re-created in this book.

Jack 1939 is about John Kennedy’s senior thesis
Sep 25, 2012 Nathan rated it did not like it
I'm not sure what's with historical fiction authors' attachment to JFK recently. Don't want to seem brash but I think they are looking back with rose-tinted glasses. Francine Mathew's new novel follows JFK through Europe before the start of WW2 working as a spy for Roosevelt under the guise of researching his senior thesis, in order to track down a money laundering scheme by the Nazis to influence the next US election with a more pacifist-minded candidate.

I'm a fan of historical fiction, but am
Sep 04, 2012 Lauren rated it it was ok
Shelves: stopped-reading
The tagline for this book is: "Charming. Reckless. Brilliant. Deadly."

Mine would be: "Fun for a bit, but got too silly for me."

The premise is this: The year is 1939. FDR chooses young John "Jack" Kennedy -- fresh from Harvard -- to be his spy in Europe. Though outlandish and unrealistic, it's not completely farfetched... Not completely. Kennedy's family was politically prominent. His father held the significant post of U.S. Ambassador to England at the time. And a young Jack Kennedy certainly m
Nov 07, 2012 Beth rated it liked it
Interesting premise to write fiction within a story of JFK's actual 22nd year traveling around Europe. His trip on the Queen Mary and the places he went are historically documented. The author is a person who knows her history and who has also worked for the CIA. It takes this kind of person to put together this kind of spy mystery.

Portraying Jack as a lover of a married man seems true but the woman as described does not. I could believe the dastardlyness of the man called the "Spider" because
Bruce Most
Oct 26, 2015 Bruce Most rated it really liked it
John F. Kennedy as a spy? That’s the outlandish but inventive premise in Mathews’ tale of 22-year-old JFK gallivanting through Europe on the brink of war. Kennedy, in fact, did travel through Europe just before the war doing research for his senior college thesis. What Mathews has reimagined is President Roosevelt convincing JFK to secretly try to get a sense of what the Nazis are up to. Behind FDR’s request is his suspicion that Hitler is funneling money into the United States in order to help ...more
Jul 14, 2012 Holly rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It's rather an old-fashioned spy story set in 1939 at the brink of war worldwide. What's special about this book is that the main character is Jack Kennedy and the whole Kennedy clan serves as a sub-plot for the book. A fictionalized account of what Jack might have been doing as he roamed Europe during the late 1930s, it's a great story. It's also fun to be able to imagine the actual faces of so many of the characters (FDR, Hoover, Churchill, Chamberlain, etc.). The ...more
Jun 16, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads

Good book, mix of a good James Bond spy tale with some Sherlock Holmes. In this alternate reality, John F Kennedy tours Europe on the brink of World War II as a spy for President Roosevelt.
There's a lot of good action. Even though it's fictional, the book prides an excellent look into the private life of the Kennedys, particularly JFK as a college student and how he gained a passion for politics.
There are a few memorable characters, including Willi Dobler, Grubbins and Diana, that are great add
Andrew Newman
Jun 20, 2013 Andrew Newman rated it really liked it
Some of you have been posting asking for recommendations for summer reading. If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend Jack 1939 by Denver author Francine Matthews. The book imagines if JFK were actually a spy for Roosevelt during his senior thesis trip to Europe in 1939 (the results of which became a real book, Why England Slept). It’s fast-paced, colorful, and creates an interesting and believable picture of pre-war Europe. My 2 minor complaints are that a few plot points turn on a ...more
Sue Davis
Jun 27, 2013 Sue Davis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mysteries, thriller
What makes this novel so interesting is the way the author weaves the actual history of the time JFK spent in Europe in 1939 doing the research for his thesis with what might have happened had FDR hired Joe Kennedy's son to expose the Nazis' attempt (with the help of Joe Kennedy himself) to influence the presidential election so that Joe Kennedy would be elected and the US would not have entered the war in Europe. I learned quite a lot about the Kennedy family as well as the Mitford sisters ...more
Jan 16, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
JFK toured Europe in 1939 to research his Harvard thesis which later became the best selling book, "Why England Slept" This book gives a fictional, historically correct, new slant. JFK was really a spy for Franklin Roosevelt on that trip. Wonderful reading for those who know their JFK and WWII history.
Based on a study of Jack Kennedy and his travels during the 1930's the author has created a marvelous historical fiction novel. I was intrigued with the relationship Jack had with his father, Joe and Jack's siblings. This novel makes me want to read more about this time period and Poland.
Jun 18, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
[Disclaimer: I won this book through a goodreads giveaway. It is an uncorrected proof edition.]

Jack is John F. Kennedy (JFK). In 1939 he is a Junior at Harvard with serious (and historically accurate) medical issues. He has arranged to spend his Spring term and summer doing independent study in Europe (also historically acurate).

Other facts the book is based on:

o President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR), foreseeing a world war and dissatisfied with the foreign intelligence the State Department and mil
Michael Garin
Oct 23, 2016 Michael Garin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great novel! A thriller par excellence. Even knowing that Kennedy would survive his travails, it was thrilling until the end.
Nov 24, 2016 Judyspadoni rated it liked it
Shelves: good
Enjoyed this book about the beginnings of WWII and the part Jack Kennedy played. A good mix of fact and fiction
Sandra Alderman
Sep 26, 2016 Sandra Alderman rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, it intrigued me enough that I will read more history books on Jack Kennedy in his early days.
Flora Brophy
Sep 16, 2016 Flora Brophy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this is a fictional story about young Jack Kenndy acting as FDR's personal spy while in Europe working on this thesis, the history of this time period and the supporting characters is generally accurate.

Jack's father Joe was the ambassador to Britain, and was sent there by FDR to get him out of his hair. Joe was politically inept and was beguiled by Hilter and Chamberlin. It was entertaining to see how Francine Mathews weaves the fiction and truth together to create a compelling story.

Aug 27, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, vine, fiction
I love good speculative historical fiction and anything having to do with WWII, so the premise of JFK’s European tour in 1939 for his college thesis being a spy job was such fun. In this novel, President Roosevelt sends 22 year old Jack to discover who is responsible for Nazi funds coming into America to prevent his election for a third term. However, Jack is chronically ill and this limits him physically, but his diplomatic connections (father Joe is ambassador to England) and the Kennedy name ...more
Mal Warwick
Sep 03, 2015 Mal Warwick rated it liked it
Sometimes history is best taught (and learned) through fiction — but only when the story told is firmly grounded in facts. Jack 1939 — a spy thriller starring a 22-year-old John F. Kennedy — is amusing, and it appears credible in its treatment of Kennedy’s persistent illnesses and strained relationships with his parents and most of his siblings. But placing him at the center of an improbable tale of espionage involving his father, Franklin D. Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover, Reinhard Heydrich, ...more
Sep 11, 2016 Susan rated it liked it
In this what if you could change history thriller, young Jack Kennedy is personally recruited by FDR to to gather intelligence on the growing Nazi threat in Europe. Under the ruse of conducting research for his Harvard thesis*, dashing Jack travels the continent spying on Nazis, packing a Luger, and falling head over heels for femme fatal, who may or may not be a double agent. While Jack 1939 is wildly improbable, Mathews pulls off her conceit with considerable style. As I am sure you will be ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Flight From Berlin
  • The Detour
  • Sacrifice Fly (Raymond Donne Mystery #1)
  • Tightrope (Marian Sutro, #2)
  • Layover in Dubai
  • House of Jaguar
  • Sly Fox (Dani Fox, #1)
  • The Age of Orphans
  • A City of Broken Glass (Hannah Vogel, #4)
  • At Some Disputed Barricade (World War I, #4)
  • The Equalizer: A Novel
  • The Millionaire and the Mummies: Theodore Davis's Gilded Age in Egypt
  • The Last Greatest Magician in the World: Howard Thurston versus Houdini & the Battles of the American Wizards
  • The Whitehall Mandarin
  • Mission to Paris (Night Soldiers, #12)
  • The Sausage Maker's Daughters
  • Christopher's Ghosts (Paul Christopher #10)
  • Sweet Caroline: Last Child of Camelot
Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, NY in 1963, the last of six girls. Her father was a retired general in the Air Force, her mother a beautiful woman who loved to dance. The family spent their summers on Cape Cod, where two of the Barron girls now live with their families; Francine's passion for Nantucket and the New England shoreline dates from her earliest memories. She grew up in ...more
More about Francine Mathews...

Share This Book