JFK spans the first thirty-nine years of JFK's life, from sickly second son to restless Harvard undergraduate and World War II hero, through his ascendance on Capitol Hill and, finally, his decision to run for president.
...remarkable rivalries within the Kennedy family – propelled by valour, vanity and greed – form the backbone of volume one of Frederik Logevall’s riveting life of JFK, which takes the story up to 1956. They serve as a vignette of American history in the middle years of the 20th century, where valour, vanity and greed were also the driving forces ... Dominating it all is the frightful and formidable paterfamilias Joe Sr. Logevall paints a richly sympathetic portrait of the old monster, paying tribute to his many gifts as well as sparing us none of the grim details of the dark side of his personality ... Unlike his father, JFK was extraordinarily skilled at creating the right impression ... As a result, he emerges from this biography as a less clearly defined figure than many of those around him. Logevall has written a superb book but its central character remains elusive ... Jack had the charm and the grace but his little brother had the steel. JFK came to rely on Bobby to do his dirty work. How that helped him reach the White House is for volume two. But already from this book it is clear that the ultimate fulfilment of the Kennedy clan’s political ambitions required that the glamorous, nimble Jack distance himself from his father and move closer to his younger brother. Which means he never really distanced himself at all.
Other authors...have ably chronicled this epic saga, but none has told the tale of the 35th president’s formative years better or more thoroughly than the Harvard history professor Fredrik Logevall in JFK, ... A fastidiously diligent researcher, Logevall pays scrupulous attention to Jack’s prep school and college essays, including a close reading of the Harvard senior paper that became Kennedy’s first book ... From all the carefully marshaled evidence a picture emerges of an uncommonly curious, sometimes frivolous but increasingly earnest young man on his way to shaping an informed, cleareyed, unsentimental sense of the world and his nation’s place in it ... [a] richly detailed and instructive book ... Though crafted as a kind of bildungsroman, JFK delivers something more than the traditional story of the callow wastrel’s maturation into the admirable adult. Here phylogeny closely replicates ontogeny. John F. Kennedy’s individual journey of separation from his father’s isolationism tracked the progression of the United States in midcentury from peripheral international player to hegemon.
This is the first of two volumes by a Pulitzer-winning Harvard professor of the highest gifts, and the most compelling biography I have read in years ... There has been a host of JFK biographies, but this one excels for its narrative drive, fine judgments and meticulous research, especially about money, women and the subject’s early writings ... This big book, which breaks off in 1956, makes the story seem a cliffhanger even though we know what is coming.