PositiveThe Washington Post... exhaustive, illuminating and sympathetic ... Particularly today, when partisan divisions in America run so deep, it’s instructive to recall Kennedy’s skill at working across party lines and gaining sufficient Republican support to secure an astonishing array of legislative achievements ... Gabler’s study, when completed, will be the most detailed portrait we have of the man, and by a considerable margin ... Young Teddy was chronically lonely and melancholy, we read, and then read again. Evidence for the claim is thin, and the notion fits oddly with the common perception (not entirely disavowed by Gabler, though he sees it as a \'learned response\') of Teddy as a jolly and sociable youngster. Gabler’s grim depiction of the parents stands in sharp contrast with Kennedy’s own affectionate portrait of them in his poignant 2009 memoir, True Compass.
Benjamin Carter Hett
PositiveThe New York Times... fast-moving, absorbing ... thanks to the author’s knack for the capsule biography, we gain fascinating insights into less obvious figures ... At times, Hett’s admirable effort at concision gets the better of him. His cast of characters is huge (the glossary of names at the start of the book runs to 12 pages and contains over 100 individuals). But many of the players make barely a cameo, and important developments pass in a blur, or are absent altogether ... Most perplexing of all in a book about the war’s origins, the intense drama of the final week of peace, when nerves were on edge in all the key capitals, is barely covered, as Hett seems impatient to get to the spring of 1940 and Churchill’s ascension to power along with the Nazi attack in the west.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review...judicious and absorbing, if not fully convincing ... There is power in Boot’s conclusion that Lansdale 'never wanted to see half a million American troops thrashing around Vietnam, suffering and inflicting heavy casualties. His approach, successful or not, would have been more humane and less costly.' In this sense, the Lansdale way was indeed 'the road not taken.' Whether that road would have led to the destination he so wanted to reach, however, is doubtful. As much as this irrepressible Cold Warrior might have thought otherwise, Vietnam for the United States was destined to be what it had always been: a riddle beyond American solution.
PositiveThe Washington Post...vivid and absorbing, if not entirely convincing ... There is a potent immediacy to his narrative, an almost cinematic vividness, and the momentum seldom flags, even over more than 500 pages. Given especially the multiple armed forces involved in the battle and the sprawling cast of characters, this is no small feat ... As befitting a battle history of this kind, the book has relatively little to say about the broader political and military context in which the encounter in Hue occurred. When Bowden does venture into this terrain, he is not always sure-footed ... If some of Bowden’s broader claims are questionable, what remains is still impressive. In Hue 1968 he has given us an engrossing, fair-minded, up-close account of one of the great battles in the long struggle for Vietnam.
Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie
RaveThe Boston GlobeFrom the initial decision to run to the early strategizing, to the endless speeches to often-sparse crowds in far-flung locales, to the internecine squabbles over planning and priorities, to the bruising run for the party nomination, to the high-stakes culminating drama of the fall campaign — our authors are passionate about all of it. Add in their deep research in original sources (they make excellent use of the oral history collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library) and the abundant experience they bring as veteran political reporters for the Globe, and the result is a gripping, authoritative campaign history, every bit the successor to Theodore White’s classic work, The Making of the President 1960.’’
PositiveThe Washington Post...an informative and well-researched overview of the covert war the United States waged in Laos between 1960 and 1975 ... A principal early player was Bill Lair, a clandestine operative who drew up a plan to train and arm the Hmong, one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Laos, to fight the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese. Kurlantzick gives us a compelling portrait of this soft-spoken man 'with the bristly buzz cut and the thick Clark Kent glasses who spoke fluent Lao with a Texas accent' — the quintessential quiet American ... It’s a harrowing story, and Kurlantzick tells it well, even if he’s occasionally shaky on the details ... The author’s loose approach to chronology leads on occasion to confusion and repetition. In the main, however, his choices about what to cover are sensible, his assessments persuasive. One puts the book down with a deeper, richer understanding of this sordid chapter in the history of American interventionism.