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Jack 1939

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,197 ratings  ·  284 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 Books
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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,197 ratings  ·  284 reviews

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Jeanette (Now on StoryGraph)
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 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
May 31, 2012 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
Carol Storm
Sep 11, 2013 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
Cathy Cole
Jun 11, 2012 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
Joe Cummings
May 18, 2016 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
Dana Stabenow
Jul 14, 2012 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
Reeves Honey
Jul 11, 2012 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 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
Gordon Paisley
Jun 17, 2012 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
Jul 04, 2012 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 s ...more
Sep 11, 2012 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 03, 2012 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 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 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
Jun 09, 2012 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 ad
Jul 14, 2012 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 a ...more
Andrew Newman
Jun 20, 2013 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 ve ...more
Sue Davis
Jul 14, 2012 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 (wow ...more
Jan 16, 2014 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. ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
Ugh! Finally finished it. I didn't enjoy this book in the least. I know it's fiction. But, I felt it was a little ridiculous. 21 year old Jack is basically on his death bed with some mysterious illness, but can traipse around Europe in pre-WWII uncertainty and drink like a fish and have mad, passionate sex. Umm, probably not. ...more
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. ...more
Paige Jackson
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A really fun and easy read. JFK (Jack) is recruited by FDR to be a spy in pre WWII Europe and get details about Hitler and how he's funneling money to fuel his campaign in the impending German election. A great mix of fact and fiction, but a fun thriller. ...more
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a brilliant concept! The author took a real person who is beloved by those of us of a certain generation and asked "What if FDR asked him to spy for the US as he traveled around Germany prior to WWII?" In 1960 when JFK was running for president, I was a high school sophomore. He came to our town to campaign and I was privileged to see him in person. He was the most handsome, charismatic man I have ever seen! Even in a crowd of several hundred people on the town square, he was overwhelming s ...more
Jun 12, 2012 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
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I did enjoy this book a lot. I originally am from MA and have always been a Kennedy fan which prompted me to get the book in the first place. I did have trouble getting into it as I struggled with Jack being so young and unfocused. I reconciled this when I finally accepted that this is a novel, fiction, and thus, not reality! The storyline introduces many of the people who were in office in 1039 as WWII was developing and gives them some interesting roles to play. How much of it is true I cannot ...more
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it
At times, this story was strong and page-turning. Other times it was confusing, references too obscure, and not real clear. It finished strong, which makes me like it almost enough to bump it to 4 stars, so a solid 3.5 stars instead.
Parts of this book are eerily similar to some things in today’s political climate. It is also weird to picture the man we know as president in such an adventurous role. It is of course fiction, but it remains hard to reconcile the character with the presidential per
May 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this book to the end because it had sentimental value to me, but I just couldn't get into it. The author categorizes it as a novel, but other than a couple of key players, I don't think that this book is anything other than fictitious. 22-year-old JFK is asked to spy on the Germans and his father Joe Kennedy by the President of the United States, FDR.

It isn't mentioned in the book, but it peaked my interest about Presidential term limits. FDR was President until he died - more than 12 ye
A pretty muddy middle (say that three times fast), book-ended by two solid thirds.

I came into this book pretty indifferent to the Kennedys, relatively speaking anyway. Some love them, some hate them, though I suspect all can appreciate their contributions - quite literally, their lives in many cases - to our nation. And maybe this is a good reminder that we can take those contributions for granted, fictionalized though this account may be.

Strangely, it's the middle where the good stuff actually
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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 Washingt ...more

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