Two Books on The Kennedys | Biography Reviews

Gabler explores the life and legacy of Ted Kennedy. Logevall writes a masterful first volume on the lasting influence of John F. Kennedy.

Catching the WindGabler, Neal. Catching the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Liberal Hour, 1932-1975. Crown. Oct. 2020. 928p. ISBN 9780307405449. $40. BIOG
With this new book, award-winning author Gabler profiles the life and career of Edward "Ted" Kennedy (1932–2009), from his status as "the least of the Kennedy’s…the one of whom little was expected" to a senior statesman in the U.S. Senate. This first volume, of two, is meticulously researched yet readable. Gabler has great respect for Kennedy, and considers him to be "the most consequential legislator of his lifetime." The author effectively describes how the politician forged a genuine connection with voters and fellow senators of both parties, and writes at length about Kennedy’s first campaign for the Senate (to fill his brother John's seat). After Robert Kennedy’s assassination, there was great pressure on Ted to run for president; the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident derailed any chance of the presidency in 1972. Gabler discusses personal challenges in Kennedy’s life, including a serious plane crash, his son’s cancer, and wife Joan’s alcoholism. But much of this book consists of legislative triumphs and failures. The volume ends with a breakdown of policies the Kennedys championed. VERDICT While this is primarily a political biography, the book contains plenty of personal material about the Kennedy family to satisfy all levels of readers. An important contribution on this family dynasty.—Thomas Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA

JFK Coming of Age in the American CenturyLogevall, Fredrik. JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956. Random. Sept. 2020. 816p. ISBN 9780812997132. $40. BIOG
The first of an anticipated two-volume biography from Pulitzer Prize–winning author and Harvard professor Logevall (Embers of War), this comprehensive history pulls from the latest archival material to provide an honest, full-person view of the iconic 35th president of the United States. This volume introduces readers to the first 39 years of the life of John F. Kennedy (1917–63), beginning with his family’s lineage and the dynamics of an Irish family. A great deal of time is also given to his service in the navy during World War II, followed by his years in Congress, to the point when he decided to run for president in 1956. While there is new information to complement the familiar, such as the inner workings of his presidency, Logevall doesn’t shy away from the charismatic view of Kennedy, but he does dive deep into the details of ideas from the president’s early adulthood that helped shape his worldview for a life destined for public service, and the growth of his political thought, to form the man he would become. VERDICT While a lengthy first volume, this study is accessible and entertaining. A wide array of history buffs, and readers previously reluctant to consume a Kennedy biography, will enjoy this highly recommended account.—David Miller, Farmville P.L., NC

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing