The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy by David Nasaw is worth a look, if for no other reason than the detailed research that went into this biography. A book of this magnitude would not have been possible if Ted Kennedy, on behalf of the Kennedy family, had not approached David Nasaw and asked him to create the biography. Nasaw agreed with the parameters that he had full access to all the Kennedy files and would not be censored in any way.
The Patriarch does not take sides and allows the reader to make their own determinations about Kennedy’s actions, motives and behaviors. This biography is educational and informative and large. Much of the information in the book comes from Kennedy’s notes, letters and diaries which flesh out his chronological history.
Hardly a rags-to-riches story, The Patriarch follows Kennedy from his beginnings in Boston, and the reader travels with him to New York, Hollywood, Washington D.C., London, Florida, Hyannis Port, Chicago and even the French Alps. The reader will learn about Kennedy’s various endeavors including banking, real estate, motion pictures politics, and ambassador duties. He was well-connected in politics in the United States of America and had relationships with Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy was not limited in his influence though and was also involved with Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Adolph Hitler and the Pope. He had quite a reach, and the book shows a driven man.
Joseph P. Kennedy was a complex individual who was cold, calculating, demanding, mercenary, and prejudicial, and many readers may have difficulty separating those traits from the rest of his biography. He is a challenging individual to feel warm-and-fuzzy about, but The Patriarch does a nice job of helping the reader see how this man became the driving force behind the Kennedy clan.
The readers will most certainly benefit from the access David Nasaw had to the variety of sources and the cooperation of the Kennedy family. The book provides a good look into Kennedy’s life, but don’t expect to come out at the other end as an admirer of the man.