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Robert Kennedy His Life - Evan Thomas

This is the story of a man, not a myth. Evan Thomas has steered clear of Kennedy cliché’s and a rehashing of the uncountable volumes of already published histories of the Kennedy family and has presented a great impartial biography.

The first chapter of this book is entitled 'Runt'. A good harbinger for an honest biography I thought as I began reading. Robert Kennedy was the overlooked son of Joe and Rose Kennedy's brood. The quiet sensitive boy who sat at the far end of the dining table with his sisters whilst his older teenage brothers Jack and Joe Junior were encouraged to go over current news events and what was happening at their respective schools and colleges with the patriarch of the family. Robert was driven through his younger years and his late teens by a need to be accepted by his father and family. Both Joe Junior and Jack had distinguished military careers and saw active service in WW2, but Robert missed out on an opportunity to impress and to win respect by only being eligible for service in 1947. The first part of the book details Roberts’s patchy academic career and his awkward formative years in various Ivy League academies and colleges as well as the oddness and strange life of the orthodox catholic and loyally close Kennedy clan.  

Although the book details JFK's 1960 presidential campaign and election it doesn't detract too much from the books main subject of the life of Robert Kennedy. Thomas explains Robert Kennedy's rise into the highest echelons of the U.S. Government, and how he both helped and hindered his brother (RFK was as far as I can see, and I may be wrong, the only thirty-something to ever have the ear of any President of the United States of America). Yes this book goes through the usual things linked to the Kennedy administration i.e. Cuba, Organised crime complications, the shadow of J. Edgar Hoover, but it flattens a lot of the drivel that has cascaded through the years and has become what people believe as the truth about that era and the Kennedy's. There's some great insightful stuff about the pow-wows between the Kennedy's and big hitters like Secretary of State for Defence Robert McNamara and other Joint Chiefs of Staff and trusted advisors. All the way through the book you are constantly reminded of the best and worst sides (of which their were many) of RFK's character and personality.

What come across in this is that neither Robert Kennedy or his brother the president were the superhuman icons of righteous causes that they have been remembered as. JFK, like most politicians through history, was a pragmatist who would only move on something controversial if pushed hard enough. What comes across about Robert Kennedy is that after being thrown in at the deep end as a young man with regard to working in national government, at the time of his death, he was becoming a man of strength and conviction who had little patience and a real hatred for the jobs-for-the-boys senatorial fraternity. He had started to make big inroads into tackling inner city poverty in America (one of the first, if not the first government figure, to introduce tax breaks to big companies who would open factories in no-go boroughs and suburbs), and with his relative youth was heralded as the second chance for America in a turbulent decade.

He was an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Often contrary, contradictory, and flawed in many, many ways (aren't we all), but a good man in a strange time working on the best way forward for a relatively new country. For the Kennedy family, the after effects of two of its sons both murdered within five years of each other at a young age (Robert 42, Jack, 46) to me are unimaginable, but I'm sure they are aware of the catalyst that Robert was toward the end of his life in trying to change American society for the better. Overall, a great read about an interesting person.
Late Doors

If it's as good as that review its a winner. Thanks for that, ace

The Kennedy clan is definitely an interesting bunch.

They're certainly not all as squeaky clean as they're often made out to be - I might give this book a whirl too. Forum Index -> Fishy Tales
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