Doris Kearns Goodwins The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga was published in 1987 and remains one of the most widely-read books on JFK and the Kennedy family. Instead, it is an engrossing, articulate and cleverly-written narrative which chronicles much of the history of the Kennedy family, including JFKs own life up to his presidential inauguration. The books forty-five chapters are divided into three major sections, the first of which covers the Fitzgerald family, most notably JFKs captivating grandfather Honey Fitz and his mother Rose. Overall, Doris Kearns Goodwins The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys offers a compelling (and often riveting) look at the lives of JFK and several members of his family. But as a second or third book on Kennedy this is an excellent choice, and anyone fascinated by the life of John F.
The book covers three generations of the families, starting with Rose Kennedys father, John Honey Fitz Fitzgerald and ending with the inauguration of John F. Rose was his favorite daughter, sent off to a convent school because it would improve her fathers political standing, standing in for his remote, unhappy wife as she got older. Joe Kennedy was a supremely gifted and utterly amoral businessman, the youngest bank president in the country, a self-made millionaire any times over, first chairman of the SEC, and a disastrous ambassador to England in the difficult years just before WWII. Goodwins skills as a researcher and her gifts as a writer make this book a truly rich reading experience and an illuminating look at the personalities, the politics, and the history of a significant segment of our past.
I love Doris Kearns Goodwin's books. She not only tells what is happening in the Kennedy and Fitzgerald's lives, she fits it into the history of the nation and even the world. She is so thorough in her telling that you feel like you have taken a college course in history, however, she teaches through stories.
The second section deals with Joe Kennedys rise to fame and fortune. The final section on the golden trio of young Joe, Jack and Kathleen was the weakest part of the book. Maybe my reaction to this final section is because 1) I had already been through almost five hundred pages of Kennedy family history and wanted to move on to the pile of unread night-table books or 2) there has been so much written on the third generation already. I would still recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the Kennedy family prior to the third generation.
Through exhaustive research, Goodwin narrates the tale of two families - the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys - from their respective beginnings in America to the inauguration of JFK - and through it all, she manages to retain a highly effective storytelling tone to this narration that is key to the best biographies and other works of non-fiction. The only "flaw", if one can call it that, is that Goodwin spends the bulk of her collective biography on the earlier years of the family's history - many pages are devoted to John Fitzgerald, his daughter Rose, Joseph P.
I wonder if it were written now if the author would have been so easy on the protagonists...Fitzerald and Joseph Kennedy Sr. She doesn't hide their flaws, nor their rise to power in the corrupt Boston of the early twentieth century, but I feel as if they would not have been seen through such rose-colored glasses if the book were written now.