Vivian Valvano's Reviews > An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963

An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek
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Oct 11, 2009

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Disclosure: I loved JFK and admired his presidency and still weep over his assassination. I am no fool about his errant womanizing. That said, I commend Dallek for his meticulous research into JFK's medical history. He was a far sicker man than anyone except very few people very close to him knew, and he hid it very deliberately. My conclusion is that he really did want to do public service, do something for his country. Most fabulously wealthy men who were as ill as he was would have done absolutely nothing, regardless of parental ambitions. The details about the womanizing during his marriage are most painful. Details about Joseph, Sr. and Rose lead me to conclude that despite whatever veneer was displayed, they were poor parents. He was morally bankrupt when it came to women, including young women acquaintances of his sons, and she was in a world of her own based in religious fanaticism and looking through rose-colored glasses. Serious flaw in the book: despite descriptions of JFK's spirit, style, and personality, nowhere does Dallek capture anything of the charisma (yes, that 1960s word) of the man. We who were young then heard, saw, and knew the charisma, and it was special. Dallek's style is strangely flat. He quotes from JFK's speeches only sparingly and paraphrases them poorly. Readers who were not alive during the Kennedy presidency will get scant awareness of what he was like from this biography.

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