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Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Chris Matthews , Holter Graham
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 6 2011
“What was he like?”

Jack Kennedy said the reason people read biography is to answer that basic question. What was he like, this man whose own wife called him “that elusive, unforgettable man?” In this New York Times bestselling biography, Chris Matthews answers that question with the verve of a novelist. We see this most beloved president in the company of friends. We see and feel him close-up, having fun and giving off that restlessness of his. We watch him navigate his life from privileged, rebellious youth to gutsy American president. We witness his bravery in war and selfless rescue of his PT boat crew. We watch JFK as a young politician learning to play hardball and watch him grow into the leader who averts a nuclear war. Matthews’s extraordinary biography is based on personal interviews with those closest to JFK, oral histories by top political aide Kenneth O’Donnell and others, documents from his years as a student at Choate, and notes from Jacqueline Kennedy’s first interview after Dallas. As Matthews writes: “I found a fighting prince never free of pain, never far from trouble, never accepting the world he found, never wanting to be his father’s son. He was a far greater hero than he ever wished us to know.”

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Product Description


“If history at its best is about telling storiesthat bring the past to life, then Chris Matthews is a master storyteller, forthis fascinating portrait brings Jack Kennedy more vividly to life than anyrecent work.—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Chris Matthews is anchor of MSNBC’s Hardball. He is author of Tip and the Gipper, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Kennedy and Nixon, Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think, American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions, and Hardball: How Politics Is Played By One Who Knows The Game.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jack Kennedy Elusive Hero Dec 3 2011
By plif55
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Chris Matthews captures more of the essence of JFK than any other book I've read and brings new information to the reader. My sense is that I now know what made JFK into the man he was, from his childhood experiences, war experience, loss of family members, to his political experiences. Congratulations to the author for basically omitting any details about affairs, and realizing as well that he didn't have to go into the assassination, both of which have already been documented, and concentrating instead on things we didn't already know.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars President Kennedy through another set of eyes Dec 25 2011
After reading the intro, I think I'm about the same age as Chris Matthews. JFK was elected to the presidency when I was in grade 8. Like Mr. Matthews, I attended a Catholic school and remember that some staff members were quite excited that a Catholic made it to the Oval Office. I didn't see what the big deal was. I also remember the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and JFK's support for Dr. King. I remember being proud of President Kennedy because, as the most powerful man on earth, he behaved like a decent human being and an advocate for those who just wanted fairness and the equal application of the law. I thought he was a pretty good president. Then, when I was in grade eleven, I remember one of the priests at my school crying. Then an announcement came over the P.A. system that President Kennedy was dead.

Although Mr. Matthews doesn't talk about Kennedy's murder (assassination sounds euphemistic to me)each page took me back to another place in my memory and the unfolding of my life in parallel to JFK's rise, his meeting the demands of such an awful job, and his death. I didn't know about his illness, his chronic pain or about his loveless childhood. Even without these limitations, or perhaps because of them, JFK became the only president great enough to garner instant recognition on the basis of his initials alone. I thank Mr. Matthews for this funny, sad, engaging, mystifying and sometimes heartbreaking stroll down memory lane. I thank him for teaching me the back-story of JFK's life and resurrecting my memories. It was a pivotal time for me and for President Kennedy.

It is a wonderful read and I'm grateful for it.
Ron Hoggan, Ed. D.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read! Dec 4 2011
I really enjoyed this book. The story is compelling and the style of writing is personal, like having a chat with the author. I also recommend this author's other books for the same reason. I hope he lives to be very old and writes many more books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work Aug. 14 2013
By Heath
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero" is a well written, and delightfully refreshing read about Kennedy, thanks to Chris Matthews research and intimate understanding of the world (both personal and public) that made Jack Kennedy who he was. It is an especially appropriate read in this year, the 50th anniversary of the tragic loss of Jack Kennedy.

For those of us who were alive when Kennedy was assassinated, a great sense of shock and sudden loss was felt. Speaking as a Canadian of but 4 years old at the time, it is remarkable that I can recall vividly how my entire family was riveted to the television, in disbelief and profound sorrow. The world came to a sudden and abrupt halt, and it remained halted for several days, in mourning for a President, a husband, a father, a beloved son.

Jack Kennedy was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and all of us - not just the United States - were robbed of the chance at the better world that Jack wanted to realise. Matthews reminds us of this well, while at the same time, he allows us to live the Kennedy campaign, and the Kennedy years, one last time. Thanks for it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  348 reviews
403 of 464 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A ONCE-OVER-Lightly effort. Nov. 3 2011
By G. Haneke - Published on Amazon.com
This might be a worthwhile book for readers who know very little about President Kennedy and his times. For reasonably well-informed students of that era, however, there is very little that is new here.
This may sound like nit-picking, but the book has some annoying errors that a more careful writer and/or editor would have avoided. Matthews calls the President's younger brother Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy. His actual name was Robert Francis Kennedy. He says Senator Joe McCarthy died in 1956, when it was actually May, 1957. He also says JFK was chosen as America's 34th President, when almost everybody knows he was the 35th.
Errors like these make a reader wonder what else Matthews might have gotten wrong.
If you want an authoritative treatment of JFK, I recommend Robert Dallek's "John F. Kennedy: An Unfinished Life"
193 of 238 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars JFK - American Hero Nov. 1 2011
By John P. Carsley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First of all, let me say that this is a well written and passionate account of Jack Kennedy the man - an American President who deserves the accolade of "Hero." Chris Matthews' conversational approach to the story, really draws you in, as though you are sittng across from him in your den having a single malt scotch. His narrative never fails to fascinate. In the end, the reader understands, that more than any other 20th Century figure, Jack Kennedy made the decisions that allowed future generations to be born, and our world to continue. A very fine book indeed.
76 of 93 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars MEDIOCRITY PASSING FOR HISTORY Nov. 15 2011
By RFKFAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is my first ever review of a book on Amazon. I am a huge Kennedy reader and have read probably every biography out on both Jack and Bobby for the last 15 plus years. I am also a fan of Chris Matthews who always has an interesting perspective especially on the political spectrum. His book is quite the let-down. It is nothing more than a breezy memoir (even though he did not know Kennedy) which could have been written by any of Jack's close circle of friends. The book has some nice tidbits but it has all been covered before and even though Matthews has a thesis which is nothing more than (1) Kennedy compartmentalized his life and the people around him so no one got the full picture of the man, (2) he was incredibly loyal to his life-long friends who he relied on his whole life and in particular when he got the White House, and (3) Kennedy's thinking and views developed and grew as he went from being the millionaire playboy son to being a congressman to senator to President. While anyone would agree with all of some of these thoughts nothing is new here. If you really want to learn about JFK then go to Dallek's excellent biography called "An Unfinished Life." I think this book is good for the young (13 plus) budding historian as an introduction to JFK in an easy to ready, not too dense format and highlights the important milestones. In that case, it could whet the appetite of the young reader and give him/her the impetus to read the more serious and detailed books on JFK.
58 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kindle formatting Nov. 23 2011
By Sandra - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you're thinking of buying the Kindle eBook, maybe think twice. I'm reading it, and enjoying the easy story telling style. But the Kindle format is annoying. Every page has random underlining that makes no sense for being there. There are family photos and scanned documents, hand written by JFK that are too small to read. I would love to know what he wrote. Customer service told me there's was nothing I could do to enlarge it.
Update: I returned it for refund. Too expensive to be like this. I'll either get it in a hard copy or skip it.
46 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Bad Book - A Good Introduction To Kennedy's Life Nov. 7 2011
By MR - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero to be a fair read, and definitely not a bad book. I didn't find it very compelling, but I can see how it would be interesting, informational, and insightful for those who are just starting to learn more about Kennedy. It would be the perfect primer before a leap to something more significant/in-depth, perhaps for a student or someone who does not have much experience reading about Kennedy. There are many insightful stories and tidbits in the book, and it is certainly easy to read, not "textbook-y".

Those who are knowledgeable about Kennedy's life will definitely not find anything groundbreaking in "Elusive Hero", although there may be a little story or two that are new. I didn't notice any information that was "unearthed" or uncovered by Mr. Matthews, and the few insights that did seem new (to me) were not all that important in comparison to Kennedy's life as a whole, and definitely not groundbreaking. The portion of the book devoted to Kennedy's line "Ask what you can do for your country" is not new information, as some may have been led to believe; the origins of this phrase (at Choate) have been discussed in other biographies before this one.

You can tell that Chris Matthews reveres and adores Kennedy - so much that it began to come across as almost too strong to me. It makes sense, and should not be unexpected, since Matthews labels Kennedy as a hero not only in the title of the book, but in the preface on page 3 ("...a figure we would come to know so well, one who would soon mean so much to us, to me.") and on page 11 ("He was a far greater hero than he ever wished us to know.").

I found that certain parts of Kennedy's life seemed left out of much of the picture, or barely discussed. Kennedy's affairs with various women, for example, are merely hinted at, with a minuscule amount of content dedicated to that portion of Kennedy's life. Chris Matthews doesn't go into any detail about "The Dark Side of Camelot" except to say things like Joe Kennedy Sr. had a "murky" or "questionable" past. I would have liked to have read more about Jack Kennedy's "murky" side, not because it is nice to read or is exciting, but only because it seems to have been an important part of Kennedy's life. It would be an important part of anyone's life.

Through the chapters I could recognize where pieces of information on historical events seemed missing, and where I remembered more details in other books. Some portions of Elusive Hero seemed sketchy and/or almost not entirely researched (or perhaps intentionally lacking detail). For example, on page 333, regarding the Bay of Pigs invasion, Matthews writes "It's hard to say just why Kennedy went along with his advisors, most of whom seem to have either had their heads in the sand or were otherwise enacting agendas of their own." However, in JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, as well as in other books, we learned that the CIA had been working on plans for an invasion of Cuba long before Kennedy was even president, and that Kennedy approved the Bay of Pigs invasion after rejecting a larger assault, and after repeated assurances from top advisors, including the assurance that the exiles would be met and joined by Cubans in a revolt. While Matthews touched on some of these things, he seemed to only have skimmed the surface and nothing more, and I noticed this on several occasions throughout the book.

I wonder if Matthews had certain priorities with this book, and knew what he wanted to focus on and what he wanted to leave out (which would explain why certain parts were lacking detail, or other things seemed left out). If so, I wouldn't blame him - maybe he wasn't looking to write the most balanced and detailed account of Kennedy's life. If readers are looking for that in this book they may be disappointed. Chris Matthews did seem genuine with his writing, and I don't agree with those who say he's out to only make a buck. I think this may just be Chris Matthews' take and his "vision" of who Kennedy was and what he meant to Matthews, but also America.

Overall, a decent look at Kennedy's life, and not a bad or terrible book, but something that experienced readers on Kennedy will likely find unsubstantial.
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