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John F. Kennedy: An Unfinished Life 1917-1963 Hardcover – 4 Sep 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (4 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997378
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 5.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"Neither debunking nor further mythologizing, Dallek fashions a balanced but fast-paced tale of sex and power that scribes from Shakespeare to Jacqueline Susann would have killed for." Steve Dougherty, ""People""" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The no1 bestseller that forever changed how we thought about JFK. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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IN AUGUST 1947, John F. Kennedy traveled to Ireland. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By EFMOL on 9 Mar. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Robert Dallek gets the formula right in an excellent biography of JFK. This book concentrates on JFK's life and deliberately avoids controversy about who shot him and all the conspiracy theories that have arisen since November 22nd 1963.
Like millions of others, I remember the day well that JFK was assassinated. I was only four years old at the time, but the memory of "a bad man" coming out of the clouds to get him still lingers to this day. I have had a fascination about JFK and what he could have achieved. I have visited the 6th Floor museum in Dallas, collect US coins with his portrait, and now I have read a brilliant biography of him.
The book largely concludes that JFK had a mostly uneventful life as a Senator and that his Presidency was all to short to really describe him as a great President. However, his role in the Cuban missile crisis where he played brinkmanship with Kruschev is brilliantly described - we can all be thankful that he was a powerful diplomat who saw military action as a last straw.
Vietnam, Berlin, Bay of Pigs, Civil Rights - they all described magnificently. Once criticism that I would have it that the author states that he was able to use new information in this biography not found in others from material released by Russian government in particular. It would have been useful to know which pieces of information are new.
JFK's early life gets a lot of detail - one wonders what he would have done if his brother Joe had survived the war. In fact, JFK's unfinished life asks a lot of "What ifs?"
What if he had been exposed in the press as a womanizer of libidinous proportions?
What if Kruschev called his bluff over Cuban missiles?
What if he lived to get elected to a second term?
Those looking for gory details about the assassination and answers to "Who shot JFK" will be disappointed - this is not the thrust of this book.
Read it and enjoy.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mick Yerman on 8 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
Dallek's 'An Unfinished Life' has become the favoured biography of JFK since its publication in 2003. The biography (the second Dallek book I've read, the first being the helpful 'FDR and American Foreign Policy 1933-1945') casts itself above its predecessors through its sterling and objective account of JFK up to his assassination, focusing largely on the determination of JFK's environments (his parents, his WWII experience), his fire to become something extraordinary (rooted in his rivalry with older brother Joe Jr.) and his medical history.

Dallek's unprecedented access to JFK's medical records inevitably leads to his medical history being detailed in great length. It is illustrated very well not just how many frustrating problems JFK suffered from but how sick he became at times almost to the point of death in the mid 1950s. While it is always important to understand the health of any president, his chronic health problems were however not serious enough during his presidency to affect his performance therefore maybe there was too much emphasis given to this topic.

Focus on JFK's philandering maybe a little ill-fitting in the book too, often it is thrown into the mix almost as if the author felt he needed to mention it a certain number of times. If Dallek had left it out of the epilogue (or even reduced the focus on it) it would have been better.

Dallek's writing style, while it is always clear and informative, sometimes lacks passion or skill. This is something I believe he knows himself and alludes to in his acknowledgements. This does not affect a dedicated reader but it certainly does a more casual one (I would not be surprised if some people bought this book but never finished it).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Nc Shackley on 17 Dec. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Almost every time John F Kennedy is mentioned nowadays, it is because of his assassination, but many seem to have forgotten that JFK was still a real person who lived a fascinating and important life before he left the world in 1963. Robert Dallek does the Kennedy legacy proud in this one volume treatment of his `unfinished life', and by focusing a sizable portion of the book on Kennedy's childhood and run-up to his Presidency, (something most biographers of Kennedy have chosen not to do) he has given us an even better understanding of the man.
Much of the book discusses Kennedy's tasks in foreign policy, and the author defends and applauds the President's actions; more often than not with justification. He also defends Kennedy's position on civil rights, a subject on which Kennedy has been increasingly criticised, but here Dallek is convincing. He explains that Kennedy faced a congress that was hostile to his aims, and one that would have rejected any radical plan he put to them. He then creates a sympathetic portrait of Kennedy as a man who had to balance the needs of blacks in his own country with those of a world at the brink of a war that could destroy civilisation as he knew it. Although the domestic problems were important, one can understand why Kennedy chose to put them second behind effectively saving the world from possible destruction.
On the assassination, Dallek is staunchly dismissive of the conspiracy theories, and offers a good explanation on why - he claims that people find it hard to accept that someone as powerful and as important to the world as Kennedy could so easily be snatched from us by a loser like Lee Harvey Oswald.
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