Incomparable Grace: JFK in the Presidency

Dutton. Apr. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9781524745745. $29. BIOG
In this biography, the elegant and popular presidential historian Updegrove (head of the LBJ Foundation; Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency) asserts that despite John F. Kennedy’s early temporizing stumbles with the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, the 1961 Vienna Summit, and the 1963 Diem coup, his pragmatic nature allowed him to learn from his mistakes (especially his initially tepid attitude toward the civil rights movement) and leave a lasting legacy. Updegrove’s opinion is shared by the likes of Robert Dallek (An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963) and disputed by, for instance, Nigel Hamilton (JFK: Reckless Youth). Here Updegrove only mentions, but does not elaborate on, the presidential distractions posed by Kennedy’s womanizing. Instead, he provides more context on the overarching impact of World War II on the extended Kennedy family, especially patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. Updegrove demonstrates an extensive familiarity with extant sources and adds new material from the papers of Kennedy aide/speechwriter Richard Goodwin, provided by Goodwin’s widow.
VERDICT Updegrove will alleviate, although not quench, general readers’ continual thirst for biographies of JFK. Pair with the likes of Fredrik Logevall’s JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917–1956.
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