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Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm: A Thousand Days in London, 1938-1940

Prices for book: Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm: A Thousand Days in London, 1938-1940

Book ISBN: 9780061173561

Author(s): Will Swift

Document type: Trade Cloth

Publisher: Unknown

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Reviews

Unique Narrative on Joseph Kennedy

Rating: 100%

Unique among historians I have read, is Will Swift, in his latest book, "The Kennedy's Amidst the Gathering Storm." Swift possesses an ability to engross one immediately due to his gift of narrative writing. Historical topics are often a challenge to read yet this work moves incredibly quickly due to the presentation of information, Swift's special wit describing a situation, and the intertwining of historical fact with character development. Every chapter presents familiar historical information concerning the prewar years 1938-1940, yet the wonderfully researched lives of Ambassador Kennedy's family brings new life into the situation. Very complete diary entries with accompanying newspaper clippings by Rose Kennedy, are a source of material that brings to life a critical world situation complete with an accounting of what Kennedy family members were doing at the moment. I often felt I was present as the situation occurred.

The background of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy is well known, but Swift suggests so much more about the character of Kennedy. The deep love for his children and the exposure of life that he and Rose guided and required of each child is worked into the narrative. One senses so much more about Jack, Bobby, and Ted in particular, due to the parenting they experienced especially as a result of these years abroad.

President Roosevelt and Joe Kennedy had a very difficult relationship as did the combination of Chamberlain and Churchill in the mix as well. We know Kennedy's career was destroyed as a result of his ambassadorship yet Swift has his readers take a good look at the character of FDR as well. One feels Kennedy's deep love of country as he tries to maneuver within an incredibly difficult and disasterous political and world situation with much of the pertinent knowledge from Washington never relayed to him by President Roosevelt.

Characters are described in this narrative such as Tyler Kent, a spy, and Unity Mitford, a companion to Hitler, that make the read unique. Fabulous parties, constant escapades of family and friends in prewar London, fascinating photographs, intimate sides of Rose as she eases into the royal family, and a look at beloved Rosemary, made my read of "The Kennedy's Amidst the Gathering Storm A Thousand Days in London, 1938-1940" so special, I read it a second time.

AnneSchomaker (Amazon.com)

Superb Study of Joe Kennedy's Ambassadorship During The Gathering Storm

Rating: 100%

A marvelous study of Ambassador Joe Kennedy's complicated personality, diplomatic involvement with Winston Churchill, and multi-faceted relationship with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dr. Swift has written an elegant study of this critical time in American history, punctuating his story with vivid portrayals and brilliant insights. Highly recommend this work to both professional historians and the interested layman.

Richard A. Gordon (Amazon.com)

very entertaining

Rating: 80%

It is hard to go wrong with a book about the Kennedys, and this one is a gem. From the politically naive and inept father, the Ambassador, to chubby Teddy, age 6, writing charming notes to his father, to Jack bedding Marlene Dietrich as a young Harvard student, the stories are all fascinating. I especially enjoyed learning about Kathleen, who shared Jack's wit without his sizable brainpower, and Joe, Jr., a fearless guy who, brought up in the competitiveness Joe, Sr., glorified, but not as bright, witty or successful as a war hero as Jack, blew himself up in a suicide bomb run near the end of World War II. Joe, Jr., like his father suffered from political myopia and lack of vision, and stuck to extreme isolationism long after it was clearly untenable for a successful Democratic politician to do so.

Not to mention seeing Rosemary, the tragic one, attend elegant high society dances in London with her sisters, without any serious problems, and function well as an arts and crafts teacher in England, totally lose it when she returned to the US, causing Joe, Sr., to agree to a lobotomy, which turned her into a vegetable. And mother Rose, who probably spent as much money on fancy French couture as Joe did on his mistresses.

The book also contains lots of wonderful cameos, from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, to their daughter, the current Queen, to the Lindberghs,
who, with their own rarified brand of politicial naivete, were about to move permanently to Nazi Germany when the war began (!), to Jack's wonderful gay best friend, Lem Billings, and the gay American Ambassador in Paris, Wlliam Bullitt, who lived openly with his partner.

One persistent theme of the book is to criticize FDR's failure to explain his foreign policy to Joe Kennedy. This criticism is, I believe, misplaced. Joe Kennedy knew next to nothing about foreign policy when he asked for the job as the first American Irish Ambassador to the King, and less when he was forced to quit. FDR rightly did not trust Kennedy, and wanted Kennedy out of the country during the 1940 Presidential election. Joe, Sr., lacked the political sophistication to understand his role, or to adjust to FDR's policies and changing public opinion in the US, which moved towards supporting intervention before Pearl Harbor left people with no other option than to fight. FDR could not have clarified his foreign policy to Kennedy because FDR was hiding his own interventionist views from a public and a Congress (and a London Ambassador) who were stuck on neutrality and isolationism. Kennedy made the additional mistake of befriending Neville Chamberlain, a very small-minded and naive politician like himself, who made the near-fatal mistake of thinking Hitler would keep his promises. Kennedy and Chamberlain were two peas in a pod.

In addition, Joe, Sr., a successful businessman, made the mistake of thinking economics controlled the bloodthirsty ideologues of the Nazi regime.

Joe Sr's reward was to see his political career destroyed; he never held any political office after he left London.

On the other hand, Jack, Bobby, Ted, all of them far better politicians and strategists than their father, never made the mistake of hanging on to extreme positions, or giving disastrously candid interviews to reporters, such as Louis Lyons, who actually and courageously reported the crazy things Joe said after his return to the US. The cosmopolitanism and friends the family developed in England just before the war, however, proved a great benefit, especially to Jack. Without the Kennedys' experiences in England, could Camelot have existed?

The book is also full of witty stories and interesting analogies, such as the fact that FDR, like Obama, had trouble with the Irish Catholic working class voters of his day.

FDR achieved his goal of keeping Joe, Sr. out of the 1940 presidential campaign; at Rose Kennedy's urging, aided by some blarney from FDR, Joe even gave a nationwide radio address before the election endorsing FDR. The important job in the government which FDR, in a staged meeting at the White House, promised Kennedy, of course never materialized.

Joe's reward, as we all know, was an amazingly talented and fascinating family. Whatever his other faults, Joe seems to have been a genuinely good father, treating his children with respect, discussing issues at the dinner table and providing support when needed. When he was not around he wrote personalized letters to each of the children. Even the tragedies, such as Rosemary's problems, often had wonderful trajectories, such as the Special Olympics which Eunice and others developed following Rosemary's tragedy.

SWAMP FOX (Amazon.com)

Jim Eyre - Editor History Magazine about THE KENNEDYS by Wll Swift

Rating: 100%

This is the way in which history should be written. Carefully researched and filled with facts(some never before revealed), the book moves at a fast pace keeping the reader intrigued and never bored. Will Swift captures the formidible Kennedy family at a turning point in history that many have forgotten - the prelude to World War II. He portrays the self-made, vastly wealthy, crafty, tenacious and powerful Joseph Kennedy - admired by some and distrusted by others - as a true patriot who worked steadfastly in an attempt to keep his beloved country out of war. It was a war he felt would lead to disaster.
Living with Ambassador Kennedy during his 1000 days in London, the reader sees an Irish Catholic family capture the attention of the lavish and flamboyant society that flourished at the time and the respect of a Protestant nation. The opinions and attitudes of world leaders during that crucial time are well detailed. There is also time to observe the children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy's tight knit family (among them Jack, Bobby and Ted) mature and take on some of the talents of their accomplished parents - talents that would serve them well in their later careers. It is a book worth every minute of the read.

Jim Eyre (Amazon.com)

An Engrossing Account of Tumultous Diplomacy

Rating: 100%


Dr. Swift has constructed through prodigious research a fascinating composite of information which he presents as a highly engrossing narrative of the role of Joseph P. Kennedy as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain on the eve of World War II.
Swift's keen appraisal of Ambassador Kennedy's actions and motivations and the reprecussions thereof, along with a fresh look at the challenges and opposition confronting Kennedy from both sides of the Atlantic at the time, serves to cast the controversial father of a future U.S. president in a more appealing and admirable light than he is usually afforded.
Throughout his intriguing report on Kennedy's endeavors in pre-war diplomacy, Swift skillfully limns artful profiles of the high level players in the saga, including Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, King George VI and Franklin Roosevelt, with their reactions and interactions during their continual assessments of the ambassador's merit vis-a-vis their own agendas. In sum, Dr. Swift's scholarly book, spiced with titilating material on the personal lives of Ambassador Kennedy and his wife and children as well as accounts of the foibles and vagaries of other participating political luminaries of the era constitutes a compelling read.

Charles G. Olbricht (Amazon.com)

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