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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 22 August 2013
This is a subject I have always been interested in, but most books seem to focus upon the image and not what was behind it. This tells of his many shortcomings, the fact he was not the chosen one by his Father until his elder brother was killed in the war. It also lets you question that if it had not been for the money and name of his family how far could he realistically have progressed in the race to the White House. You also have an insight into the integrity of JFK over his medical condition, extra marital affairs and perhaps wonder what else, and could this have created more problems or new issues when in higher office. That you can only surmise, but it is refreshing to have a fuller and more balanced view
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on 11 July 2014
Real examination of the Kennedy mythos with a focus on one of the central figures. Robert Dallek has produced a real stonker of a book and it made me delve deeper into the Kennedy world.

Would recommend
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on 15 February 2013
A real page turner with great insight by the author, highly recommend with a great deal of American history, great
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on 28 April 2014
Factual and balanced biography of Kennedy. Easy to read but covers all of the queried parts of his life - his health, his womanising, the influence of his father, and how effective he was as President. Great stuff.
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on 30 March 2013
never in the history of human civilization was the fate of millions of people decided inside one mind.let Dallek seat you in that one mind,in this profile in courage.this is not just a book.it is a reminder of the innate human potential to overcome obstacles and also to live the one life you have.what urged me to know Kennedy was the movie "13 days".In this book,i met him.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 November 2010
" An Unfinished Life" is Robert Dallek's superb biography of John F. Kennedy. Dallek carries JFK's story from his ancestry through to his post-mortem assessment. Through the course of this thorough biography, he follows two consistent themes, Kennedy's health and womanizing.

The story is a fascinating one. Beginning with his Boston Irish politician grandfathers, Patrick Kennedy and John F., Honey Fitz, Fitzgerald, the reader is led to understand how JFK was guided into his political career. The smaller, sickly brother of heir apparent Joe, Jr., John's education and naval service were directed by his overbearing and ambitious father Ambassador, Joseph P. Kennedy. After graduation from Choate, JFK pursued studies at the London School of Economics, Princeton, Stanford and Harvard. It was at Choate that his health became a lifelong problem, primarily centered on adrenal gland insufficiency, gastrointestinal disorders, and back pain. It was also at Choate that JFK began a lifelong practice of womanizing.

Both of Kennedy's afflictions influenced his naval service. His cavorting with a suspected NAZI spy resulted in his transfer out of Naval Intelligence and into a desk job. Through family and political influence, his medical history was overlooked when transferring to the PT service. It was as commander of PT 109 that he achieved military glory. While on a night patrol a Japanese destroyer sideswiped his boat, setting up a JFK's heroic rescue of a burned crewman and strenuous efforts to avoid capture by the enemy and achieve rescue by American forces. Impressions that this incident started his back problems are shown to be incorrect because they were pre-existing conditions and by his survival efforts and his later command of another boat before deteriorating health sent him back to the states and discharge.

Back in civilian life after Joe, Jr. had been killed, Joe, Sr. arranged for an open U.S. House seat that John won. Through this and his Senate career, during which he amassed a lackluster record, John was often absent due to health problems. Resentment over his failure to vote on the censure motion against his friend, Joseph McCarthy would follow him for the rest of his life.

His bid for the 1956 vice-presidential nomination was an important step in making JFK a national figure. After angling for Stevenson's endorsement, Team Kennedy launched into a floor fight when Adlai turned the decision over to the convention. Failure engendered a determination to win the presidential nomination in 1960.

The planning for the 1960 campaign began at Hyannisport and ended there on election night. Dallek does an excellent job of guiding the reader through the primaries, principally Wisconsin and West Virginia, the convention maneuvers, the debates with Nixon and the assessment of how and why Kennedy won.

Upon moving into the White House, JFK was confronted with a series of crises starting with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, followed by the unsettling Vienna summit with Khrushchev, the Berlin Missile Crisis, the rising Civil Rights movement and the over through of President Diem in South Vietnam. One gets the sense that events controlled Kennedy and that he responded to them, on the whole, rather well. The Democratic political disunity in Texas that drew him to his death is explained as well as the step by step events culminating in the president's assassination.

This book gives the reader a lot of information and many things to think about. I believe that it is a fairly objective treatment of its subject, showing his strengths while not overlooking his weaknesses. I arrived at a new appreciation of Kennedy, both positively and negatively. It has whetted my appetite to learn more about him. A book that accomplishes that merits a strong endorsement.
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on 9 April 2013
I found it easier to listen to the tapes rather than reading the book and it allowed me to listen to it in work whilst doing other things. The actor's voice was easy to listen to and having already read quite a bit of the book it allowed me to revisit the early parts. Good delivery and packaging. No complaints.
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on 18 June 2011
This book is absolutely excellent in telling the story of one of America's most elusive president's, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

I purchased this book relatively new to the story of JFK, only knowing parts of it through the excellent "HISTORY" drama "The Kennedy's" that aired recently. I was fascinated by the series and wanted to find out more about the man featured in the series. A man who is portrayed as good in policy but terrible outside of it.

I would very much agree with other reviewers in that the book is very much about JFK's politics and the way he did things. This is what interests me but if you want to know more about the man himself and his actual character then this is not really the book for you.

One slight criticism I have of the book is that too much emphasis is placed on JFK's health problems, a mention here or there would be perfectly fine, instead it seems to come up in every paragraph or every few pages in some form or another. This gets rather irritating eventually, particularly considering it's quite repetitive.
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on 25 March 2011
JFK was an extraordinary figure, a celebrity president with media charisma and influence, living - in retrospect - in very extraordinary times: in terms of foreign policy challenges you had Castro's Cuba, Berlin crisis, beginnings of the American involvement in Viet Nam, and of course, the confrontation with the Soviet Union over Cuban missiles in October 1962 that almost resulted in a nuclear holocaust. On the domestic front you would have challenges with economic growth and the civil rights agenda.

Dallek's authoritative biography provides an excellent account of JFK's career. He is sympathetic towards JFK, acknowledging at the same time his many faults, and the result is an impressive, balanced history. The final chapter, "an unfinished presidency" summarizes everything in a formidable way. JFK had an "unfinished" life, and we know not what judgment might have been passed upon him had he been able to complete two terms at the US helm. Dallek's biography gives us a lot of food for thought thereon as well.
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on 16 April 2011
Knowing little about JFK's time as President, I wanted an authoritative guide on his life/time in office. This book did not disappoint. Going into enough detail to set the scene, but maintaining a strong narrative, I found this a fascinating read. It has made me want to read more about the Kennedy dynasty, particularly Jackie, as she is not focused on much in the book. It has also made me very excited about visiting the JFK library in Boston this summer - a must read!!
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