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The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
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The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  2,385 Ratings  ·  292 Reviews
In this magisterial new work The Patriarch, the celebrated historian David Nasaw tells the full story of Joseph P. Kennedy, the founder of the twentieth century's most famous political dynasty. Nasaw—the only biographer granted unrestricted access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library—tracks Kennedy's astonishing passage from East Bost ...more
Hardcover, 868 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by The Penguin Press (first published November 1st 2012)
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Steve Sewall
Apr 08, 2013 Steve Sewall rated it did not like it
The Patriarch has received glowing reviews in the New York Times and elsewhere. It's been praised for humanizing Joe Kennedy as a driven, up-from-nowhere Irish American and as a devoted father, brilliant investor, and peerless political kingmaker.

This 868-page book is thoroughly documented and has a huge bibliography and index. But for all of its scholarly trappings, the book is more the work of a hagiographer than a biographer. Why? Because Nasaw’s deeper intent, I think, is not to humanize Ke
Feb 26, 2013 Ed rated it really liked it
Review the book, not the subject. Review the book, not the subject. Just keep repeating that to yourself. David Nasaw has written a good book about a man who is hard to admire. The Kennedy family provided Nasaw with access to sources that previously were unavailable to biographers; if the expected him to write a hagiography, they must be disappointed.

Nasaw pretty much refrains from making judgments about Joseph Kennedy. When Nasaw edges toward the moral bar, and can't provide any but the dark
Mikey B.
This is a thorough biography of a truly remarkable man who, with his family, provides us with a grand view of the American century. Aside from the Roosevelt’s (Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor) I can think of no other family that has become so iconic and significant to U.S. history. It is a story of both high triumph and devastating tragedy.

Joseph P. Kennedy came from an upper middle class background, which he attempted concealing, perpetuating a myth that his roots were more humble. He made his
Sarah Finch
Jul 22, 2013 Sarah Finch rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Nasaw doesn't deal in flowery language or hyperbole, he simply lays out the chronology of a fascinating life, smart enough to know that his subject is compelling enough to not need any stylistic bells or whistles. He dismisses some of the myths surrounding Kennedy (the rumors of bootlegging, for one) while confirming that he was also an unrepentant anti-Semite, philanderer, and borderline conspiracy theorist. Most intriguingly, he expounds on the dichotomies of Kennedy's family life - ...more
Mar 22, 2013 Marty rated it it was amazing
Exhaustively footnoted and thoroughly researched, this is an excellent biography -- albeit way, WAY longer than I had wished. Nasaw got wonderful cooperation from the Kennedy family in compiling this book, which in turn gave him entree to friends/associates with whom he had extraordinary access. However, it certainly did not at all color his detached and independent portrayal of his subject. This biography busts many long-time myths about Kennedy (i.e. while he certainly invested in legal liquor ...more
Sam Finn
Jan 05, 2013 Sam Finn rated it it was amazing
Well done biography. Avoids the common pitfall of "taking sides" either with or against its subject. J P Kennedy was a complex man. Not much to admire in him or his behavior, on either a personal or a professional level. Clannish - tribal, really - and prejudiced in his way of viewing the world. Cold, mercenary and demanding in his personal, business and political dealings. Ultimately a narcissist: he was the center of his universe, followed next (and closely) by his children. These were, it see ...more
Billy Roper
Jul 01, 2016 Billy Roper rated it it was amazing
Like Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford, Joseph Kennedy favored the United States remaining neutral in the second World War. What many modern Americans don't know is that prior to December 7th, 1941, a majority of Americans agreed with them. It took a great deal of economic and political arm-twisting, as well as the manipulation of the Japanese and the sacrifice of thousands of American lives, in order to get the U.S. to save Communism in Europe.
Nancy Burns
Jan 03, 2016 Nancy Burns rated it it was amazing
Finalist #PuitzerPrize 2013 "The Patriarch" behind the scenes J.P. Kennedy and his dynasty

My review:
Mal Warwick
Feb 02, 2015 Mal Warwick rated it it was amazing
Joe Kennedy was a piece of work.

The men in public life he admired the most were Neville Chamberlain, Herbert Hoover, and J. Edgar Hoover. He deeply distrusted FDR, Winston Churchill, George Marshall, and Harry Truman. He campaigned strenuously against military action to resist Hitler and, later, Stalin and his successors. “He was perfectly consistent,” writes David Nasaw in his compelling biography. “He saw communism in the forties as he had seen Nazism in the thirties — as a detestable system b
Jan 29, 2013 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A giant doorstop Father's-Day-present biography like this one is hard to do well all the way through, because nobody's life is inherently compelling the whole way through. Nasaw finds the intricacies of JPK's early business deals a little too fascinating, for example, whereas it seems to me that they're only interesting to the degree that they display Kennedy's character. I was more interested in Kennedy's decision to leave the Protestant-dominated world of Boston finance for Hollywood, where he ...more
Peter Boody
Apr 04, 2013 Peter Boody rated it really liked it
For a while, I found it a little hard to stick with this exhaustive account of Joe Kennedy's life because, as other reviewers have commented, a good sense of the flesh and blood man is not revealed by a mere list of steps in his life.
I think this quality of the narrative has to do with Nasaw's apparent decision (as the "authorized" biographer) to do no more than report the facts as revealed by letters, interviews, memoirs, oral histories, news reports and other records. So there is something qu
Steven Peterson
Nov 25, 2013 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
A fine biography. It depicts the Kennedy family's patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, in a realistic manner--warts and all. The author is David Nasaw, who also authored a massive biography of Andrew Carnegie (801 pages of biographical text). His pedigree as a biographer, then, is strong. This volume has 787 pages of text about the subject of the biography (more if you add acknowledgements, footnotes, and index).

Kennedy led a reasonably comfortable life in youth, getting a good college education. His ance
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 presiden ...more
Bob Glass
Jan 03, 2013 Bob Glass rated it really liked it
A few years before the late great Ted Kennedy passed, Senator Kennedy approached David Nasaw and asked him to write a biography of his father Joseph P. Kennedy. Nasaw said he would on the condition that he be allowed full access to the Kennedy(s) libraries for research in addition to no editing from the family. Senator Kennedy agreed and what we have on our hands is quite the masterpiece.

To say there are to many books about the Kennedy's is a slight understatement but their family is "American R
David Bales
Jul 12, 2013 David Bales rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Often pigeonholed as a foul-mouthed, anti-Semitic crook, David Nasaw's thorough biography of Joseph P. Kennedy reveals him to be an amazingly intelligent and shrewd businessman who built an immense fortune largely by being a smart investor with tremendous insight on business. Vexed by politics and always opinionated, Kennedy came from East Boston to the apex of power in New York, Washington and Hollywood and helped elect Franklin Roosevelt president only to be rejected, accepted and rejected tim ...more
Jan 04, 2013 Corny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biograpghy
This is the second Nasaw bio I have read, the first being Andrew Carnegie, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Joe Kennedy is not a likable person but Nasaw is fair to him, noting both his incredible financial acumen and intuition as well as his complete lack of political skills. If I come away with one thing from this immensely detailed and well crafted biography, it is "open mouth, insert foot." It was only Joe's money that kept anyone except his family around him. Nasaw describes him aptly as the con ...more
Uwe Hook
Jan 05, 2013 Uwe Hook rated it really liked it
THE PATRIARCH is more than a biography of Joseph P. Kennedy. It is a fascinating review of history in the pre-World War Two era as well as the war years and beyond. Anyone who is interested in background on the Kennedy clan will be assured of an in depth analysis of the beginnings of their wealth and power. Joseph Kennedy himself is a figure to be admired, emulated, derided, envied and despised. Sometimes the politics of the reader will influence which of these descriptions is the most accurate, ...more
Dec 30, 2015 Manganbobyahoo.Com rated it it was amazing
After reading this elegantly written and totally engrossing biography of Joseph P. Kennedy you'll likely find yourself convinced that the most extraordinary person in the Kennedy clan was not JFK or RFK, but the Father who produced both the remarkable family and the renowned fortune. "The Patriarch" of America's most famous political dynasty led an amazing life and author David Nasaw does a splendid job here of describing it in a fresh. stylish and polished way. Thankfully, the biography is not ...more
May 09, 2015 Dorothy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
A five star read for a two star man. A master manipulator of markets, men, media and morals at his core Kennedy was about the amassing and holding of wealth for himself and his family and the drive for the political influence that those with wealth often believe they deserve. And buy.

Considered an appeaser during the WWII and no friend to Jews (though some of his best friends were Jews....) his positions owed more to his fear of losing wealth than any well-reasoned political theory. A devout Cat
Gary Schantz
Oct 18, 2014 Gary Schantz rated it really liked it
While not a big fan of the Kennedy legacy or The Camelot myth, I was very interested in reading this book because so much of the history of the Kennedy family begins and ends with Joe Kennedy Sr.

It was a long book but it was an easy read as it flowed nicely from one part of his life to another. Since he lived 81 years, and the book was almost 800 pages long, it managed to cover his life fully without being boring. No needless details such as deep looks into his personal affairs with w
Jul 21, 2014 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Love him or loathe him, no-one can deny that Joseph P. Kennedy presided over a truly remarkable family, a family that owed almost all of its wealth, position and success to him. He was ambitious, driven, possessed of an incredible strength of will and devoted to his last breath to his children - and say what you will, without Kennedy Snr behind them it is unlikely that any of his children would have risen to the heights they did.

He has always been a controversial figure, rarely hesitating to spe
Don Stanton
Jun 28, 2013 Don Stanton rated it really liked it
It was a better read than I had expected. Many revelations about Joe Kennedy and the rest of this family we're startling to say the least.
I should start with the positive.
Joe Kennedy was way a head of this time, just because of this political awareness and financial ability. He was a genius no doubt about it. He made fantastic sums of money on real estate deals, and short selling stocks & bonds which today is illegal but was not during his time.
He was an excellent father who tried to do the
Paul Pessolano
Jan 25, 2013 Paul Pessolano rated it it was amazing
“The Patriarch” by David Nasaw, published by The Penguin Press.

Category – Biography

This has to be one of the best biographies written due to the incredible amount of work and research that was done to put it together. This, and the fact that Nasaw was asked by the Kennedy family to write it and that Nasaw agreed only to do it if he had full access to all the Kennedy files and would not be censored in any way.

There have been many stories about the life of Joseph P. Kennedy, some true some false,
Dan Petegorsky
Dec 22, 2012 Dan Petegorsky rated it liked it
Nasaw’s biography is being compared to Caro’s masterworks, but I think it’s an inapt comparison. “The Patriarch” certainly has the heft to match a Caro volume, but it lacks the interpretive brilliance and analytical depth Caro brings to his subjects. Where Caro might spend hundreds of pages on a single paradigmatic episode, Nasaw’s approach is more, well, encyclopedic.

As a result, we don’t really inhabit his characters the way we do with Caro. We see what happens, but not nearly so clearly why,
May 08, 2013 Carolann rated it really liked it
I find it hard to get my thoughts together about this book.

I did not expect anything so unbiased.

It was actually to the point where I found it cruel.

The end descriptions of what Joe Kennedy was like after his stroke.
I found some of that unnecessary, almost like the author was aiming low blows and cheap shots.

I also had the thought that if Joe Kennedy was so lovingly cared for and revered even after he was severely disabled.
Why was Rosemary Kennedy not afforded that same treatment by the family?

Mary Ronan Drew
Dec 12, 2012 Mary Ronan Drew rated it really liked it
Biographies tend to be either deadly boring or deeply engrossing. David Nasaw's biography of Joseph P Kennedy, the father of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, is one of the engrossing sort. Enough time has gone by and enough actors in the Kennedy family tragedy have died that most of the papers of most of the Kennedys and of the people they wrote to and received letters from, as well as everybody's journals, are now available, primarily at the Kennedy Library in Boston. Nasaw has taken advantag ...more
Shawn Thrasher
Apr 16, 2013 Shawn Thrasher rated it liked it
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 the ...more
Nov 22, 2015 JoAnn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best biography I've read in a long time and a nonfiction favorite of 2013. Joseph P. Kennedy was an exceptional man whose life intersected most major events of the 20th century. He was an outspoken (often to a fault), independent thinker who possessed extraordinary business and leadership skills, along with a strong sense of family, religion, and public service. Learning about Joe's life provides a foundation for understanding the entire Kennedy family.

The Patriarch is a truly outsta
Sometimes you find a gem in the most unlikely places. I found this book at The Dollar Tree - for $1.00. I have several books about the Kennedy family and snatched this one up the minute I saw it on the shelf. The title of the book pretty much describes Kennedy with one word: Patriarch. He fulfilled the definition of the word to the letter. I never really paid close attention to the Joseph P. Kennedy story. He was a vague figure when I was a child. Just the wheelchair bound Father of the Presiden ...more
Hilary O'Donnell
Apr 15, 2016 Hilary O'Donnell rated it it was amazing
Captivating (for me) all the way through, even if not wholly unbiased. This is the first biography of Joe P. I've read. To read his biography was to piece together all the bits and bobs I knew from history, living in Boston MA, growing up in the Kennedy Era, etc. and it was a revelation on many levels. His was a determined, larger-than-life, life with outsized appetites and self-generated wealth and vision to support it all. For whatever the truth about his boot-legging, for his inability to see ...more
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David Nasaw is an American author, biographer and historian who specializes in the cultural and social history of early 20th Century America. Nasaw is on the faculty of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he is the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History.

In addition to writing numerous scholarly and popular books, he has written for publications such as the Columb
More about David Nasaw...

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“The one thing he did die a martyr to was his own conscience. He wanted to do the right thing because it was his idea of the thing to do, and for that—and that alone—he died. This is the satisfaction which you and I will always have.” 1 likes
“Lindbergh was horrified. “The English,” he wrote in his diary, “are in no shape for war. They do not realize what they are confronted with. They have always before had a fleet between themselves and their enemy, and they can’t realize the change aviation has made. I am afraid this is the beginning of the end of England as a great power.”38” 1 likes
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