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The Ambassador: Joseph P. Kennedy at the Court of St. James's 1938-1940

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Acclaimed biographer Susan Ronald reveals the truth about Joseph P. Kennedy's deeply controversial tenure as Ambassador to Great Britain on the eve of World War II. On February 18, 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy was sworn in as US Ambassador to the Court of St. James. To say his appointment to the most prestigious and strategic diplomatic post in the world shocked the Establishme Acclaimed biographer Susan Ronald reveals the truth about Joseph P. Kennedy's deeply controversial tenure as Ambassador to Great Britain on the eve of World War II. On February 18, 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy was sworn in as US Ambassador to the Court of St. James. To say his appointment to the most prestigious and strategic diplomatic post in the world shocked the Establishment was an understatement: known for his profound Irish roots and staunch Catholicism, not to mention his “plain-spoken” opinions and womanizing, he was a curious choice as Europe hurtled toward war. Initially welcomed by the British, in less than two short years Kennedy was loathed by the White House, the State Department and the British Government. Believing firmly that Fascism was the inevitable wave of the future, he consistently misrepresented official US foreign policy internationally as well as direct instructions from FDR himself. The Americans were the first to disown him and the British and the Nazis used Kennedy to their own ends. Through meticulous research and many newly available sources, Ronald confirms in impressive detail what has long been believed by many: that Kennedy was a Fascist sympathizer and an anti-Semite whose only loyalty was to his family's advancement. She also reveals the ambitions of the Kennedy dynasty during this period abroad, as they sought to enter the world of high society London and establish themselves as America’s first family. Thorough and utterly readable, The Ambassador explores a darker side of the Kennedy patriarch in an account sure to generate attention and controversy.


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Acclaimed biographer Susan Ronald reveals the truth about Joseph P. Kennedy's deeply controversial tenure as Ambassador to Great Britain on the eve of World War II. On February 18, 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy was sworn in as US Ambassador to the Court of St. James. To say his appointment to the most prestigious and strategic diplomatic post in the world shocked the Establishme Acclaimed biographer Susan Ronald reveals the truth about Joseph P. Kennedy's deeply controversial tenure as Ambassador to Great Britain on the eve of World War II. On February 18, 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy was sworn in as US Ambassador to the Court of St. James. To say his appointment to the most prestigious and strategic diplomatic post in the world shocked the Establishment was an understatement: known for his profound Irish roots and staunch Catholicism, not to mention his “plain-spoken” opinions and womanizing, he was a curious choice as Europe hurtled toward war. Initially welcomed by the British, in less than two short years Kennedy was loathed by the White House, the State Department and the British Government. Believing firmly that Fascism was the inevitable wave of the future, he consistently misrepresented official US foreign policy internationally as well as direct instructions from FDR himself. The Americans were the first to disown him and the British and the Nazis used Kennedy to their own ends. Through meticulous research and many newly available sources, Ronald confirms in impressive detail what has long been believed by many: that Kennedy was a Fascist sympathizer and an anti-Semite whose only loyalty was to his family's advancement. She also reveals the ambitions of the Kennedy dynasty during this period abroad, as they sought to enter the world of high society London and establish themselves as America’s first family. Thorough and utterly readable, The Ambassador explores a darker side of the Kennedy patriarch in an account sure to generate attention and controversy.

30 review for The Ambassador: Joseph P. Kennedy at the Court of St. James's 1938-1940

  1. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I’ve read a fair amount about the Kennedys, but this is the first nonfiction book I’ve read that tackled Joe, Sr. in any depth. Don’t go into this if you want to like the subject. I found Kennedy thoroughly unlikeable. Ronald paints a picture of the man in all his roles - family man, womanizer, businessman, political appointee. The book gives us plenty of lead up to his appointment as Ambassador to England in 1938. It then takes us through his tumultuous 3 years in the position. Kennedy was tot I’ve read a fair amount about the Kennedys, but this is the first nonfiction book I’ve read that tackled Joe, Sr. in any depth. Don’t go into this if you want to like the subject. I found Kennedy thoroughly unlikeable. Ronald paints a picture of the man in all his roles - family man, womanizer, businessman, political appointee. The book gives us plenty of lead up to his appointment as Ambassador to England in 1938. It then takes us through his tumultuous 3 years in the position. Kennedy was totally unprepared for the job. A narcissist, he felt he knew better than the President and Secretary of State and often spoke out of turn. He was disloyal to Roosevelt as he had his own presidential ambitions. Like PM Chamberlain, he was convinced Hitler could be dealt with and managed and that a “German economic powerhouse wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.” He was continually of the opinion that fascism was better than communism as it would protect capitalist positions. Ronald gives us a well rounded dissertation on the times. She shows us not just Kennedy’s positions, but also those of the other American politicians and ambassadors and the British politicians. She also adds in bits about the Kennedys’ social ambitions. The book tends to dryness, but I felt that I learned a lot from it, especially concerning the build up to the war. My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Susan Ronald, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review. I have long been a fan of the Kennedy family, perhaps America’s first political dynasty. While much of my focus has been on JFK and his assassination, Susan Ronald opened my eyes to another angle worth exploring. Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch of the Kennedys, used power and influence to sway opinions, First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Susan Ronald, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review. I have long been a fan of the Kennedy family, perhaps America’s first political dynasty. While much of my focus has been on JFK and his assassination, Susan Ronald opened my eyes to another angle worth exploring. Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch of the Kennedys, used power and influence to sway opinions, both in and out of the political arena. When he was given the role of US Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s (United Kingdom), it was the job of a lifetime. However, as Ronald argues effectively throughout this tome, it came with significant consequences for the country, the president, and world history. Ronald puts forth strong arguments and keeps the reader enthralled throughout as she lay the groundwork for how Kennedy’s ambassadorship changed history, not entirely for the better. Susan Ronald opens the book offering the reader some great backstory on the Kennedys and how Joseph helped build his empire on both American coasts. His love of the movie industry helped make him a household name, though his focus was making money rather than making sure every American could recite his name at the drop of a hat. As his family grew, Kennedy found ways to build walls around himself, keeping his wife, Rose, at a distance when it suited him. However, He always wanted his eldest, Joe, Jr., and John (Jack) close to the action, hoping to pave the way for their successes in the years that followed. With his eye on the ambassadorship in the United Kingdom, Kennedy lobbied Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) for the appointment. Many people know Kennedy was wealthy, but a position like this would require more than cutting a cheque to cover the costs. He would need to be a diplomat and one with power to persuade. Kennedy did all in his power to show that his influence could be used properly in Europe and that his connections would effectively help the Americans build stronger ties with their allies. Reluctantly, FDR agreed to the appointment in 1938, but tried to leash Kennedy to ensure things flowed smoothly. While Kennedy was keen to use his new role to cement European connections, he was fond of offering his opinions when it came to the brewing unrest on the European continent. As the Germans and Italians rose to power, Kennedy repeatedly espoused views that fascism was not entirely problematic, as long as it kept communism from rising. This was not official American foreign policy and there are numerous instances when FDR offered angered rebukes about his ambassador. Kennedy was, perhaps indirectly, trying to formulate US policy on his own and speaking as the government mouthpiece while doing so. Using his ties within the British government, Kennedy sometimes could be seen to shape politics at Westminster in a time when a united front was needed against the boisterous Germans and equally troubling Italians. Appeasement appeared to be the theme of the day, as Kennedy supported his British counterparts while they dealt with the fascist uprising. FDR did not take the easiest approach and recall his ambassador, for many reasons. With an upcoming election in 1940, FDR sometimes surmised that it was better to keep Kennedy away, so as to prevent him from making a run for the Democratic nomination. While war inched closer, Kennedy pushed his views, but was eventually rebuffed when FDR-supported Churchill returned to the prime ministership. Kennedy was no longer the great political statesman and bided his time while FDR turned attention elsewhere. Kennedy had overstayed his welcome and was soon on his way back, with little to show and no overt support from his own government. Ronald effectively portrays Joseph P. Kennedy’s rise to power as being one in which the man thought that he could use his influence to change opinion, no matter what his superiors wanted. While this did occur repeatedly, the clash between Kennedy and official US foreign policy never seemed to be properly resolved. Kennedy dictated what he wanted, the State Department issued their version, and the two wafted next to one another, while Europe stood on shaky ground. Ronald shows how this gamble to send Kennedy to Europe paid off more to keep him out of the Administration’s hair than to keep things steady and calm. Joseph Kennedy had an agenda and would not leave without pushing it in one direction or another. That it caused a great deal of turmoil in the late 1930s is clear to many, though could it have been halted without ruining FDR’s chances at an unprecedented third term in office? That’s a mystery best left to the alternate historians. While this was by no means a light and quick read, Susan Ronald makes it highly enjoyable for the reader who has an interest in this sort of thing. Her attention to detail and thorough analysis provides the reader with something intriguing to read. Much of the instability within Europe is well-known, but Ronald’s perspective offers readers a great insight into what happened and how Kennedy played a key role in its development. With chapters that are easily digested and a captivating narrative, the story advances well and the curious reader is provided some wonderful nuggets. Susan Ronald is clear in her arguments and does leave the reader with something on which to chew as they consider what might have been. I’d gladly read more of her work, as this offered a great perspective on pre- and early-war analysis. Kudos, Madam Ronald,, for an insightful book. I am glad I took the time to read it and hope to find more of your work soon. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    When I was a girl, I had a comic book about the life of the newly elected president John F. Kennedy. One frame I always remembered with wonder depicted the Kennedy family at the table, their father at the head. It told that JFK’s father led mealtime discussions on political news and current events. It was so unlike my experience, I had to marvel at such a father. Well, over the years I have read biographies of President Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy and learned more about that awes When I was a girl, I had a comic book about the life of the newly elected president John F. Kennedy. One frame I always remembered with wonder depicted the Kennedy family at the table, their father at the head. It told that JFK’s father led mealtime discussions on political news and current events. It was so unlike my experience, I had to marvel at such a father. Well, over the years I have read biographies of President Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy and learned more about that awesome father. Joseph P. Kennedy (JPK) taught his family core values, like loyalty to family comes first, and winning was everything–and that married men needn’t give up womanizing. His own life demonstrated these values. And, he was determined his son would become president, a revenge against anti-Catholic, anti-Irish prejudice he had encountered. The Ambassador gave me all the details of how Kennedy used the ambassadorship to Britain to promote his own agenda and to propel his children into society. Kennedy was an isolationist; he didn’t want his sons in war, and he was convinced that another big war would destroy civilization. His primary concern was with economic stability and growth. Since the Nazis had brought economic security to the Germans, he didn’t see fascism as a problem. In fact, he said it was inevitable, even in the US, that capitalism had failed. As an anti-Semite, he was unconcerned about the plight of European Jews under the Nazis. More than that, I learned that before he wanted his son to be president, Joseph P. Kennedy wanted to be president himself. And that is where his ambassadorship comes into the story. He had supported Franklin Roosevelt’s presidential bid, even self publishing a book about why people should vote for FDR. He expected a high governmental position as a reward. President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew JPK was only concerned about himself and would be a political rival. The ambassadorship was a reward that kept the troublesome JPK out of the states. JPK was unequal to the task. His arrival in Britain was a media sensation; his defeatism alienated them. He bluntly spoke for himself, and not for the president. He was unable to feel compassion for the victims of Nazi Germany. He left his post for months, and moved into the countryside to avoid the Blitz. FDR couldn’t stand him. JPK blamed everyone else for his failings. He was always the shrewd hard business man, & still thinks in terms of dollars against the terms of human feelings…Money & material things are of no account, in relation to life. The others can be replaced but not life. George VI on Joseph P. Kennedy, quoted in The Ambassador by Susan Ronald The more I read, the more repugnant Kennedy became to me. How could Ronald have spent so much time with him? It’s a well-rounded portrait, including Kennedy’s alliance with powerful and glamourous women, including Greta Garbo, Claire Booth Luce, and Marlena Dietrich. And the stories of his children’s experience in England is covered, including Kick falling in love and Rosemary finding a safe and loving haven. Eldest son Joe Jr. was unimaginative and adopted his dad’s beliefs. As Ronald writes, had he become president, just imagine what would have happened when Joe McCarthy went on his anti-communist rampage? Luckily, the curious John F. Kennedy went his own way with his own insights. And somehow, they all came from Joe Sr. By making a strong family, and providing the wealth to pursue politics, John became president, then Bobbie entered politics, and finally Ted, each son taking up his deceased brother’s mantle, carrying on his tradition and furthering the family’s legacy. What a complicated, flawed, maddening, and amazing family they were. I received an ARC from St. Martin’s Press. My review is fair and unbiased.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    I’ve always been in awe of the Kennedys; from my earliest memories of JFK's assassination, the lovely Jackie's regal stance, and the continued sad events that follow the meandering Kennedy trail. I’ve often wondered what America would be like today if JFK and Martin Luther King lived a full life. Such sad losses and the repercussions continue. Imagine my surprise to learn that the patriarch of the Kennedy clan was a self-centered, egotistical, boosting, and clueless man in all facets of life: san I’ve always been in awe of the Kennedys; from my earliest memories of JFK's assassination, the lovely Jackie's regal stance, and the continued sad events that follow the meandering Kennedy trail. I’ve often wondered what America would be like today if JFK and Martin Luther King lived a full life. Such sad losses and the repercussions continue. Imagine my surprise to learn that the patriarch of the Kennedy clan was a self-centered, egotistical, boosting, and clueless man in all facets of life: sanctity of marriage, political, and personal. Joseph P. Kennedy presented the facade of being a good and loving father, while secretly (even from Rose, the mother) approving a lobotomy on 23- year old Rosemary, who then lived in isolation for 20 years. This finally changed when Papa Joe suffered a debilitating stroke and the remaining Kennedy clan was able to make family decisions. Setting my personal opinion aside, I was completely enamored at the flamboyant and completely clueless life Joe Kennedy was able to live while being blessed with such impressive children. I applaud the author, Susan Ronald for her determined research, in-depth and across the board, to present a multi-faceted look at such a single-dimensioned person. How he fumbled through life, creating millions, dabbling in various trades, putting up a royal and well-informed front, Joe was the original “Jack (Joe) of all trades, master of none”. Sadly, his bumbling and interference caused a multitude of bad choices throughout the world when he held some degree of power in the years leading into World War II. His damage to the Jewish people, numerous countries, and countless lost lives are irrefutable. This is a well-researched, gently written biography about a man who could have been, who eventually brought hope into the world through his children. Sincere thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is August 3, 2021.

  5. 4 out of 5

    A

    Great read for a deep dive into the history of the making of an American political dynasty. Joe and wife Rose were the ultimate social climbers, and the reader is ultimately left with how characteristically narcissistic they both were with Joe engaging in multiple affairs and Rose frequently traveling alone away from family. In larger measure, he was on the wrong side of history as it relates to Hitler and the Nazi party, siding with Chamberlain that appeasement was the path forward and advocati Great read for a deep dive into the history of the making of an American political dynasty. Joe and wife Rose were the ultimate social climbers, and the reader is ultimately left with how characteristically narcissistic they both were with Joe engaging in multiple affairs and Rose frequently traveling alone away from family. In larger measure, he was on the wrong side of history as it relates to Hitler and the Nazi party, siding with Chamberlain that appeasement was the path forward and advocating letting Hitler have his way with Europe. Adept at improving his personal fortune and propelling his children into the upper stratosphere of society, Joe was determined to create a context by which either he and/or a son would be elevated to the Oval Office. Ronald’s details concerning the complicated relationship between Kennedy and FDR (FDR just wanted him out of the country and out of his hair) are interesting in that we see how FDR was able to manipulate Kennedy while Kennedy continually thought it appropriate to rail against the president and tell him what to do. Most deeply disturbing is Rosemary’s fate. Relegated to a mental institution after years of violent moods, seizures and missing developmental milestones, Rosemary eventually underwent a lobotomy at her father’s direction. The author details the facts that only Joe visited her for many years, with her sisters only visiting after their father had passed on. Full disclosure, I received a complimentary ARC copy from NetGalley.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Skahns

    Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this arc in exchange for my honest review. The Ambassador is a well written and super interesting biography detailing the time Joe Kennedy spent as an ambassador to Great Britain. If you love reading in great detail about a specific time period of someone’s life and are interested in the Kennedy patriarch, this book is for you!

  7. 5 out of 5

    JFN

    This could be a three or even four starer for effort, really, but I gave this book two stars mostly because I found it to be such a tough read in terms of the style. There's valuable information strung together here; it's insightful -- and gave me what I wanted in terms of understanding the context of what the hell Joe Kennedy was doing in GB leading up to the war and how he got there -- but it was not an enjoyable read. It's very dense on the page. And many times, dozens of times, I found mysel This could be a three or even four starer for effort, really, but I gave this book two stars mostly because I found it to be such a tough read in terms of the style. There's valuable information strung together here; it's insightful -- and gave me what I wanted in terms of understanding the context of what the hell Joe Kennedy was doing in GB leading up to the war and how he got there -- but it was not an enjoyable read. It's very dense on the page. And many times, dozens of times, I found myself reading a sentence or a passage and then being like "Who? Wait...what?" There are, necessarily, a lot of players in this story, and it was hard to keep everyone straight, as the story was told. There was a lot of "And then this happened and then this happened and then this happened," at a near-breathless pace from start to finish, every event peppered with the minute-to-minute actions of many people, and I wonder if this could have been pared back a little to just the essentials. I don't know. Because I read this on a reader I didn't realize until I was finished that there was a handy list of "characters" at the end. Avail yourself of that while reading; it'll help. But also, there were many instances of pronoun-antecedent disagreement or just lack of clarity, and these and other bits of editorial sloppiness made for frustrating stumbling blocks in the narrative. And per the narrative, the whole thing read more like a dense day-by-day calendar of events. Good to have it all in one place, but it would've benefitted the reader (this reader, anyway), to have had more moments of overview that pulled back and put key events in context. And I say this as someone who's not coming to the subject cold. That said, I appreciate and applaud the amount of research that went into this work, and the author is completely successful in conveying what an arrogant, opportunistic, insufferable prick Joe (and Rose, and Joe Jr.) Kennedy could be, simply by putting down on the page their own words and Joe Sr.'s innumerable face-palm-inducing faux pas and contemporary exasperated and bewildered observations about him. That was all fascinating. Oh, what I would give to know what was said in that private, stunningly brief conversation between FDR and Joe Kennedy in FDR's Hyde Park study that day that ended with FDR calling Eleanor and telling her to get JK the hell out of there and that he never wanted to see that son of a bitch again. Holy moly, if walls could talk. All in all, a valuable contribution I think, but not, as I said, an enjoyable read because of the sheer density of it. I like the author's voice in her author's note at the end. It's very warm and personable. I wish she'd brought a little more of this looseness into the main narrative. It would have made the book a more engrossing, more pleasurable read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Wagner

    DNF at around 15%. It had a very dry style, like a textbook. I love reading history via narrative, but here there are many names dropped unnecessarily. I clung to the quotes and first-person letter excerpts, as glimpses into American and European culture and politics between the World Wars and the birth of the New Deal. But it wasn't enough, and despite the excellent academic value that is undoubtedly here, I couldn't force myself to slog through this as a novel. DNF at around 15%. It had a very dry style, like a textbook. I love reading history via narrative, but here there are many names dropped unnecessarily. I clung to the quotes and first-person letter excerpts, as glimpses into American and European culture and politics between the World Wars and the birth of the New Deal. But it wasn't enough, and despite the excellent academic value that is undoubtedly here, I couldn't force myself to slog through this as a novel.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Patterson

    I gave the book 5 stars, but the ambassador himself would get far fewer. Review of The Ambassador: Joseph P. Kennedy at the Court of St. James, 1938-1940 I can’t say that Susan Ronald’s new book about Joseph P. Kennedy changed my opinion of him but it did leave me freshly appalled. It’s hard to read any account of Kennedy’s time as ambassador to the Court of St. James without encountering the word “disaster” early and often. Disaster doesn’t quite seem to describe it. I propose “diplomapocolypse. I gave the book 5 stars, but the ambassador himself would get far fewer. Review of The Ambassador: Joseph P. Kennedy at the Court of St. James, 1938-1940 I can’t say that Susan Ronald’s new book about Joseph P. Kennedy changed my opinion of him but it did leave me freshly appalled. It’s hard to read any account of Kennedy’s time as ambassador to the Court of St. James without encountering the word “disaster” early and often. Disaster doesn’t quite seem to describe it. I propose “diplomapocolypse.” The recounting of an endless list of missteps and protocol breaches could become tedious, but Ms. Ronald’s highly readable prose keeps one engaged until the end. Diplomatic posts are usually gifts from presidents to wealthy political supporters. Kennedy had supported FDR because he feared that communism would destroy capitalism and Kennedy was nothing if not a capitalist. Roosevelt found the idea of putting someone Irish at the Court of St. James amusing. Reports were that he practically fell out of his wheelchair laughing about it. He wasn’t laughing long. After 6 months, Roosevelt knew he’d made a mistake but thought recalling Kennedy would call his own judgment into question. Later on he found he didn’t want Kennedy the defeatist back in the US. Kennedy was warned by his friends that becoming an ambassador was a huge mistake. He had no training for this most complicated of posts and he was, quite frankly, not diplomatic. He was one of those people who didn’t know what he didn’t know. And he was becoming an ambassador at a perilous time: Britain was on the verge of WWII. He seemed totally unable to deal with any information that did not accord with what he already thought. While his sons, Joe Jr. and Jack traveled through Europe and sent reports back to their father he ignored the observations of the more analytical Jack and valued those of Joe, who essentially parroted back what his father already believed. Joe had a bad habit of giving people the impression that he was making foreign policy when his job was to follow the foreign policy developed by others; he spoke to German government officials without telling Roosevelt or Cordell Hull ( the Secretary of State) that he had done so. He hung out with Charles Lindberg and his wife Anne, who were both enthusiastic about how Hitler was invigorating the German people. Lindberg thought that no one could defeat German aviators and Kennedy favored appeasement. He thought that the US should abandon Great Britain and make a deal with Hitler. This made his job even more difficult because pretty soon no one in London or Washington, D.C. was giving him any information because they didn’t trust him. Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister and fellow appeaser, was briefly smitten with Kennedy, but as Kennedy became more estranged from the war policies of Washington, D.C. Chamberlain found him less useful. Even King George VI was unhappy, noting in his diaries that Kennedy seemed to see everything in monetary terms only. Finally this least diplomatic of men had a bad habit of telling Roosevelt how to do his job. Most alarmingly, as Ms. Ronald tells us, Kennedy told Roosevelt that it was OK to attack the Nazis but not the Fascists. Fascism was better than Communism and Kennedy believed that the United States would someday have to come to terms with some kind of fascism. Roosevelt later told Harold Ickes, his close advisor and Secretary of the Interior that he believed if Kennedy became President (a job Kennedy very much wanted), he would rely on a small group of people to advise him and bypass Congress. Kennedy known to ‘become drunk on his own verbosity’ had a final meeting with Roosevelt before he resigned his ambassadorship. No one knows what was said. Kennedy was to be a weekend guest but the President had had enough. He told Eleanor ‘I never want to see that son of a bitch again,’ and requested that she drive Kennedy around for a while, give him a sandwich and put him on a train home. This book was a pleasure to read. It’s really impossible to discuss all the interesting points that Ms. Ronald makes here. I was delighted to discover that I have two more of her books nestled in my Kindle (Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire: A Biography and A Dangerous Woman: American Beauty, Noted Philanthopist, Nazi Collaborator—The Life of Florence Gould. I can’t wait. *Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me this ARC

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa of Hopewell

    My Interest I have stated many times my life-long interest in the Kennedy family, which I inherited from my parents and my paternal grandmother. I have a substantial library of books on them, and though I no longer buy that many on the family, I found this one on Net Galley and received it in exchange for an honest review. [I do not make any money off this blog. Even my Amazon links are merely for readers' convenience.] The Story Joe Kennedy's story is well known--father of the famous Kennedy sons: My Interest I have stated many times my life-long interest in the Kennedy family, which I inherited from my parents and my paternal grandmother. I have a substantial library of books on them, and though I no longer buy that many on the family, I found this one on Net Galley and received it in exchange for an honest review. [I do not make any money off this blog. Even my Amazon links are merely for readers' convenience.] The Story Joe Kennedy's story is well known--father of the famous Kennedy sons: President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General/Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his namesake, Joe. Jr--killed in World War II  He is equally well-known for his daughter Kathleen ("Kick") who married their heir of Duke of Devonshire, "Billy," Marquess of Hartington, Eunice who founded The Special Olympics, Pat who married British actor Peter Lawford, Jean married to the head of the Kennedy business empire, Steven Smith, (and mother of the once-notorious William Kennedy Smith) and Rosemary--the daughter he tried so hard to protect, yet agreed to lobotomized. Until the lobotomy, however well-intentioned it might have been, being Rosemary's father was perhaps Joe's most admirable role. He loved her so. Joe Kennedy's best-known trait was his ruthlessness. This book does an excellent job of showing that. He was also a pioneer in the use of public relations. Americans knew of that big family of Joe and Rose Kennedy before he became head of the new SEC or Ambassador, let alone before Jack became a Senator or President, because of his relentless self-promotion. Today we would say that the "optics" were good for Joe Kennedy to serve as Ambassador to the "England" [The Court of St. James]--the gregarious big Irish-Catholic American family not only showed America's love of home and family but also showed that an Irish Catholic was as good as anyone else. Even as late as the 1930s this was not always the case.  The family was interviewed sailing for England--the very young Bobby and Teddy being the stars of the interview. Rosemary and Kick were shown leaving with Rose for their debut at Buckingham Palace--a move that delighted Irish Catholic Americans only a generation or two removed from what they saw as British treachery in Ireland. Equally engaging was the image of little Teddy with his family after receiving his First Holy Communion at the Vatican. Joe Jr, "Kick," and Jack all became darlings of the aristocratic social round--Kick even bagging one of the most eligible bachelors of her generation. The Irish Catholic Kennedy family were "society," not servants. Sadly, Ambassador Joe Kennedy was often more an embarrassment than an asset. In terms of policy,  Joe was more interested in his own growing reputation than in the interests of the administration he represented in London. He allied with "Peace in our time" Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain instead of with Churchill [out of office then] or other politicians more in tune with FDR's policies. Joe Kennedy was not a man for details. He meddled, badly, took credit for the ideas of others, and used his friendship with Clare Booth Luce of Life Magazine to hype his own views and proposals, including his so-called "Kennedy Plan" for Jewish resettlement. He would later turn defeatist on the UK's chances of winning the war. FDR's staff decided he was dangerous and his stint as Ambassador was ended. My Thoughts This was an easy, but engaging read. There is some new (new-er) information that has not been seen much before  The author, happily, does not dwell on the entire Kennedy saga which has been told in great depth too many times. She focuses solely on Joe's professional life (i.e., the building of his fortune through liquor imports, Hollywood, and the stock market) then on his tenure as Ambassador. She adds enough family details to give a good portrait of the man. My Verdict 3.5 The Ambassador: Joseph P. Kennedy at the Court at St. James, 1938 to 1940 by Susan Ronald will be released on August 3rd. It is available now for pre-order.

  11. 4 out of 5

    William Rham

    I found “The Ambassador” to be a very interesting examination of Joseph P. Kennedy’s 2 ½ year term as Ambassador to the Court of St. James just prior to and during the beginning of WWII. Author Susan Ronald begins by giving us the basics about Kennedy’s background: his Boston Irish roots, his matriculation to Harvard, and his very successful career as a businessman on Wall Street and in the movie and imported liquor industries. Charismatic and charming, but also highly aggressive and very outspok I found “The Ambassador” to be a very interesting examination of Joseph P. Kennedy’s 2 ½ year term as Ambassador to the Court of St. James just prior to and during the beginning of WWII. Author Susan Ronald begins by giving us the basics about Kennedy’s background: his Boston Irish roots, his matriculation to Harvard, and his very successful career as a businessman on Wall Street and in the movie and imported liquor industries. Charismatic and charming, but also highly aggressive and very outspoken, Kennedy turns to politics, supporting FDR and his New Deal and becoming head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. But he wants more—maybe to run for President in 1940 if FDR doesn’t want a third term; or Vice President, if he does. Believing a stint as Ambassador to England will give him the necessary, heightened visibility to achieve this goal, he convinces FDR to appoint him. Except, there’s one huge problem: Kennedy is wholly unsuited to the job--both generally as any kind of ambassador and specifically as Ambassador to a Great Britain threatened by Nazi Germany. Egotistical, self-aggrandizing and self-promoting, thoroughly obtuse, and always, always “on the make” for himself and his family, Kennedy knows nothing about diplomacy and has zero interest in learning. Worse, he admires what Hitler and National Socialism has accomplished, believes Fascism is the “coming thing,” and has absolutely no faith in England’s ability to win a war—a war which he believes would be economically ruinous for everyone. So, he aggressively supports Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, and when that fails, turns defeatist, bad-mouthing England’s competence and war-making ability to anyone who will listen, including King George VI and Roosevelt. The result? Well, old Joe Kennedy never did run for either of the two top jobs and indeed, never again held a post in any administration. It’s a fascinating tale, very well written, that examines not only Kennedy, but the politics and personalities of the era. Readers will learn something about FDR, King George, VI, Chamberlain, Churchill, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Under Secretary Sumner Welles, Hitler, Von Ribbentrop, Mussolini and, of course, Kennedy’s children including Joe, Jr., Jack, Rosemary, and Kathleen. A word of caution. If you’re a Kennedy fan, you may not like this book because it is intensely critical of the patriarch of the family. While it gives “the Ambassador” credit for being a good father, that’s about the only nice thing author Ronald has to say about him. And while her treatments of Jack and Kathleen are mostly favorable, her portrait of Joe, Jr. is not flattering. But if you’re interested in the run-up to and beginning of World War II and the various forces and personalities in play, then you may just find this a welcome addition to your library. My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this work.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karin Mika

    This was somewhat of a timely book given what occurred at the Afghanistan withdrawal. That is, headstrong (if not insane) leaders, the zest for military conquest, populism, and greed are behind every war. These factors rarely enable any well-intentioned person to ever get humanity back on the right track. The book is about Joseph P. Kennedy's time as Ambassador to Great Britain right before World War II (his rise and fall). The story of Joseph P. is an interesting one. He was the grandson of poor This was somewhat of a timely book given what occurred at the Afghanistan withdrawal. That is, headstrong (if not insane) leaders, the zest for military conquest, populism, and greed are behind every war. These factors rarely enable any well-intentioned person to ever get humanity back on the right track. The book is about Joseph P. Kennedy's time as Ambassador to Great Britain right before World War II (his rise and fall). The story of Joseph P. is an interesting one. He was the grandson of poor Irish immigrants who did well for themselves within a generation and became part of the upper society of Boston Catholics in the late 1800s. He was a male typical of his time period -- domineering, chauvinistic (if not misogynistic), greedy, zealous for power, and desirous of being the patriarch of essentially a dynasty of sons and their progeny. What he didn't have, however, was an ability to size up the people around him and act accordingly -- mostly in a way where his own self-interest wasn't his primary focus. It's hard to fully condemn Kennedy any more than one would condemn the men in the time period that created him. He did not want there to be a world war (who would?), but that was partially because he feared for his sons who would serve in the military, and partially because he was not able to see beyond his belief that the only thing that mattered was economics. He believed, somehow, that if everyone understood the underlying economic detriment of a particular decision, they simply wouldn't do what they might otherwise do. By having this tunnel vision, he didn't have a very good understanding of Hitler and how the matter should be handled. It didn't help that he was a raging anti-semite and a dedicated Roman Catholic (which didn't seem to affect his philandering). Kennedy, as most know, wanted his children to do big things and he pretty much "cultivated" them so that they would do big things. Joseph Jr. was groomed to be president of the United States, and when he died in World War II, John Kennedy was charged with taking over the dream. The story of the Kennedys is pretty tragic. Joseph lived to experience the death of his eldest son, and his favorite daughter. He was alive for the assassination of both John and Robert. He also lived long enough to watch Ted disgraced at Chappaquiddick, and had a daughter who spent most of her life institutionalized because of special needs. I doubt all that many people remember who he is, and his life is somewhat reminiscent of the poem Ozymandias. Still, it was a fascinating look at the characters who are forever immortalized in history because they had to figure out what to do about Hitler. Would things have been different with different people? Perhaps. However, I doubt that there is anything that could have been done diplomatically at an earlier time to do much about Hitler.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    The Ambassador is about the head of the Kennedy clan, Joe Kennedy. Now, I like a few thousand other 70s babies have heard their fair share about the Kennedys. They were worshiped when John F. Kennedy was president, every woman of the 60s of a certain age wanted to dress like Jacqueline Kennedy, this book is not about any of the Camelot Era dreams, this book comes way before that.. Joseph Kennedy loved his kids and his family more than anything in the world, it wasn't that he was a touchy-feely f The Ambassador is about the head of the Kennedy clan, Joe Kennedy. Now, I like a few thousand other 70s babies have heard their fair share about the Kennedys. They were worshiped when John F. Kennedy was president, every woman of the 60s of a certain age wanted to dress like Jacqueline Kennedy, this book is not about any of the Camelot Era dreams, this book comes way before that.. Joseph Kennedy loved his kids and his family more than anything in the world, it wasn't that he was a touchy-feely father, it was that he wanted them to be the best, the closest of families, he ran his family as if they were a mob family, which in all honesty he sort of was. The Ambassador is about the time that Joseph Kennedy was US Ambassador to the Court of St. James. I thought that I had known how arrogant, and conniving Joseph Kennedy was from numerous readings and things my father would say about him but Susan Ronald showed me things I never knew about Joseph Kennedy. I had no idea to what lengths his beliefs took him when it came to fascism, how he had no problem with what Adolf Hitler was doing to the millions of Germans and Jewish people he despised. I was sickened by so many of Joseph Kennedy's actions. This is no adverse response to the author and her writing. Susan Ronald did a deep dive into Ambassador Kennedy's life, thoughts, and actions and I am sure this could not have been an easy job to research for this book and still did a wonderful job of getting his personality, thought process, and love for his family into this well-written book. I appreciated Ms. Ronald doing this deep dive, It was a fascinating, emotional read for me. This book was far from being dry like so many Histories are when it comes to people of the past. The one thing I can say about Joseph Kennedy is that he was not boring, even if he was insufferable. If you ever wondered who the patriarch of the Kennedy Clan was, or wondered how so many of the Kennedy Boys were involved in Politics this is a must read for you. If you are into Biographies, this book is for you. If you are into learning from the past, this book is definitely for you. I promise it is worth the read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    The Ambassador is a fascinating look at Joseph P. Kennedy's time as Ambassador in London between 1938 and 1940. Appointed by President Roosevelt, it was clear from the start that Kennedy had only his own interests at heart. As WWII approached, he remained overwhelmingly against the United States getting involved. Even when the administration moved closer and closer to helping the Allies, Kennedy railed against the situation's futility. In the end, his inability to support the British government The Ambassador is a fascinating look at Joseph P. Kennedy's time as Ambassador in London between 1938 and 1940. Appointed by President Roosevelt, it was clear from the start that Kennedy had only his own interests at heart. As WWII approached, he remained overwhelmingly against the United States getting involved. Even when the administration moved closer and closer to helping the Allies, Kennedy railed against the situation's futility. In the end, his inability to support the British government and his continued bluntness and self-interest caused a rift not just between himself and President Roosevelt but also with British politicians who wondered what he was still doing in their country. As I read this, I was surprised by his pro-fascist tendencies and his tendencies to view everything through the lens of economic advancement. His eldest son Joseph seemed to harbor the same views as his father. His lack of diplomatic skills and unwillingness to support his own administration's policies seemed almost incomprehensible to me. He often made statements on his own without going through the approved channels. In some ways, he reminded me of another recent pseudo-politician who either refused to follow protocols or dispensed with them when not in his own interests. I especially enjoyed the look back at The Ambassador's early life and that of his wife. Rose seems to have been a distant mother to her nine children, which I hadn't expected to be the case. But perhaps times were different then. I found Kathleen or Kick as she was known to be a fascinating person. She managed to chart her own course, even if it didn't turn out to be as happy as she planned. All in all, this was a well-written and researched book that was enjoyable to read. Thanks to St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review. More reviews at www.susannesbooklist.com

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maria-Anne

    Not only are we getting to know Joseph Kennedy the Patriarch of the Kennedy family but also a lot of insight in the political situation of the time period just prior to World War II in Europe and US. Susan Ronald did a lot of research for this book and the book is interesting and easy to read but because there is so much information to absorb I had to take a break halfway and do some light reading. Joseph P. Kennedy was in the first place a businessman who knew how to make money and in a lot of w Not only are we getting to know Joseph Kennedy the Patriarch of the Kennedy family but also a lot of insight in the political situation of the time period just prior to World War II in Europe and US. Susan Ronald did a lot of research for this book and the book is interesting and easy to read but because there is so much information to absorb I had to take a break halfway and do some light reading. Joseph P. Kennedy was in the first place a businessman who knew how to make money and in a lot of ways making money was his priority in his approach to dealing with the political situation. As a person he had a personality that you either love or hate not much in-between. In a way his behaver reminded me of Donald Trump. I recommend this book to anybody that is interested of that time period. Because the European leader’s acceptance of the fascist governments seeing this as a lesser problem then the communist, you feel that Hitler could have been stopped a lot faster if the European countries had reacted to the initial threat. Understandable that still recovering financially from World War I that they were hesitant to become involved in another war and did their most to try to keep peace even if that was doomed from the beginning. In hindsight it’s easy to say what should have been done and criticize. Joseph P Kennedy isn’t the only American over the years who tried to tell the European counties what they should and shouldn’t do. A diplomat he certainly was not. The book is not a flattering picture of Joseph and Rose Kennedy but probably rather a real one. Their sons took a different approach to politics and their beliefs. They might have followed up on his dreams of them becoming President of the United State but they did it on their own beliefs not their father’s

  16. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    Having not read a biography by Susan Ronald, I was pleasantly surprised to find this one informative, interesting, and holding my attention throughout. "The Ambassador" is a detailed history of the years 1938 through 1940 when Germany was flexing its muscles and gobbling up countries in Europe. It is during those years that Joseph P. Kennedy is sent to England as America's Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Kennedy is an untried and unqualified diplomat, opinionated, brash, pro-fascist, and an Having not read a biography by Susan Ronald, I was pleasantly surprised to find this one informative, interesting, and holding my attention throughout. "The Ambassador" is a detailed history of the years 1938 through 1940 when Germany was flexing its muscles and gobbling up countries in Europe. It is during those years that Joseph P. Kennedy is sent to England as America's Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Kennedy is an untried and unqualified diplomat, opinionated, brash, pro-fascist, and anti-Semitic. He hobnobs with Lindbergh and British pro-Nazi aristocrats. Kennedy says what he wants, doesn't follow FDR's directives, and is most definitely a loose-cannon. Joseph Kennedy is disliked by both the British and the Americans, both governments and diplomats alike. Ronald doesn't pull any punches in her history and biography of the father of 9 Kennedy children, including JFK, RFK, and Teddy. While there's plenty of backstory and a good deal of biography of Kennedy, his wife Rose, and their children, "The Ambassador" really focuses on politics of the period. If you want an almost daily description of the years of the beginning of WWII, this is the book for you. I read an ARC so I hesitate to comment on the contents of the book in its unauthorized state. But, MAPS would be useful, more so than the family tree. The bibliography is "selective." I noticed that references in the footnotes aren't necessarily references in the bibliography. Nevertheless, the bibliography is a great place to start to learn more about the Kennedys and the political tensions from 1938-1940. Thanks to St. Martins Press for an ARC to read and review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Coleen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I won a PAPERBACK Advance Reader's Edition copy of this non-fiction book in a Goodreads Giveaway. My first disappointment about the book was its missing INDEX. I am a big 'index user' particularly when dealing with non-fiction historical books. So NOT having an index was a big drawback for me. That having been said, the book filled in many missing facts in my understanding of the time period between Hitler's 'rise to power' in Germany in the early to mid-30's and the actual start of WW11. I recen I won a PAPERBACK Advance Reader's Edition copy of this non-fiction book in a Goodreads Giveaway. My first disappointment about the book was its missing INDEX. I am a big 'index user' particularly when dealing with non-fiction historical books. So NOT having an index was a big drawback for me. That having been said, the book filled in many missing facts in my understanding of the time period between Hitler's 'rise to power' in Germany in the early to mid-30's and the actual start of WW11. I recently read The Splendid and the Vile which dealt with Churchill and England's entry into the War and I totally enjoyed it. This book was certainly from a different viewpoint, which in my opinion is a good thing [to see both sides -or more than one side to what is occurring in history.] It is fairly safe to say that Kennedy [Joseph P.] was on Chamberlains' side in the book, and took an isolationist view as far as getting the U.S. involved in the European War affairs, and was somewhat if not absolutely an anti-Semite. From there, the book makes sense. It was interesting to read the histories of Joe's children as youngsters, some of which I did not know at all. And I have to admit being shocked at Joe Kennedy's affairs, so much that I continued to doubt much of it as I continued to read the accumulation of evidence. Suffice also to note that this account is not kind to Pope Pius X11 nor the Catholic Church. For those seeking to fill in all the blanks - and there are still many more - of WW2, this book should help a great deal.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tami

    For two years, Joseph P. Kennedy served as the Ambassador to Great Britain. He was there from 1938-1940, during a pivotal time in history. Hitler was gaining power and the political scene was tense. At first, Kennedy was welcomed by the British, but soon he was treated as an outsider by both the British and the White House. He was not loyal to Roosevelt and often misrepresented the political situation regarding Hitler. His ego was such that he took no advice from others with more experience. He w For two years, Joseph P. Kennedy served as the Ambassador to Great Britain. He was there from 1938-1940, during a pivotal time in history. Hitler was gaining power and the political scene was tense. At first, Kennedy was welcomed by the British, but soon he was treated as an outsider by both the British and the White House. He was not loyal to Roosevelt and often misrepresented the political situation regarding Hitler. His ego was such that he took no advice from others with more experience. He was an anti-Semite and sympathized with the Fascist party, both of which were not conducive to his position as Ambassador. His naïveté concerning Hitler was one of his failures as an Ambassador. Kennedy was also unfaithful to his wife on numerous occasions. About the only positive thing about Kennedy was that he did love his children, especially his sons. He was exceptionally ambitious, and groomed his eldest son for a future presidency. I grew weary of the political jockeying throughout the book as it often made for very dry reading. However, the personal aspects of Kennedy and the family were very interesting. I learned just enough about the family to encourage me to read more about them individually. I highly recommend this one to history lovers and those fascinated with the Kennedy family. It was well researched and I found the footnotes as interesting as the book. Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me to read an advanced copy and offer my honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eileen Kennedy

    Joseph P. Kennedy won his varsity letter in baseball at Harvard; in the last game, despite his being struck out, he seized the winning ball which should have been awarded to the team captain. This incident seems to sum up his character: if he believed himself entitled, he grabbed for it. He felt he deserved recognition from high places and campaigned for Roosevelt in anticipation of a reward. He did not get what he wanted but he saw the job as ambassador to Britain as a way to rise. He was not e Joseph P. Kennedy won his varsity letter in baseball at Harvard; in the last game, despite his being struck out, he seized the winning ball which should have been awarded to the team captain. This incident seems to sum up his character: if he believed himself entitled, he grabbed for it. He felt he deserved recognition from high places and campaigned for Roosevelt in anticipation of a reward. He did not get what he wanted but he saw the job as ambassador to Britain as a way to rise. He was not equipped with the personality needed for such a position. He lacked a decent understanding of world affairs, unlike his second son. He saw fascism growing across Europe but failed to see the need for engaging in conflict with these countries. He called for neutrality for America while he attempted to strengthen his business interests. He lived up to the description of “loose cannon.” He alienated the majority of the English people. He manipulated the press and spoke disparagingly about the American President. He talked too much, appearing vulgar and coarse to some and charming to others. Referred to as “Jittery Joe,” he was regarded as a coward. Susan Ronald provides detailed and well-supported incidents in his tenure as ambassador along with analyses of how he viewed a situation and how others viewed him. His tunnel vision of life and aggressive nature turned off many; however, it set his own family on a destiny of historic proportions.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    I received this from Netgalley for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This book looked at Joseph P. Kennedy's ambassadorship in Britain just before and right after the start of WWII. I have never read anything about Kennedy before this book. I knew he was a very rich guy, but I never knew he was such a narcissist. I mean he thought he was entitled to so many different positions, until Roosevelt finally appeased him with this one in England. It was interesting to see how Kenn I received this from Netgalley for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This book looked at Joseph P. Kennedy's ambassadorship in Britain just before and right after the start of WWII. I have never read anything about Kennedy before this book. I knew he was a very rich guy, but I never knew he was such a narcissist. I mean he thought he was entitled to so many different positions, until Roosevelt finally appeased him with this one in England. It was interesting to see how Kennedy thought his ambassadorship was preceived and the actual way it was. Most of the Brits at first liked him, but when Hitler started demanding lands back, most of his Brit friends started departing from him. This book took a lot of research and you can tell, when you read it, that it was well researched. Just the amount of data Ronald had to go for had to be enormous. Roland didn't write this so that I came away thinking how great a guy Kennedy was. Yes, he set his family and future generations up for life. That said, he pinned his son's against each other, he was never ever faithful, he was a narcissist, had a gigantic ego, and was a womanizer. Plus, the Brits thought he was a pessimist because he kept telling them they couldn't win a war. If you are interested in the Kennedy's or WWII, I think you would enjoy this book. Happy Reading 😊

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark Chimel

    After reading The House of Kennedy and Logevall's JFK biography this summer and other JFK and RFK biographies in the past, I was excited to learn more about the father that made it all possible. This biography, like Logevall's JFK biography, is focused on a period of time rather than a whole life, and in this case that period is small, yet pivotal number of years. While Joe Kennedy's term as ambassador have touched on in other Kennedy books I have read, this book definitely reveals a lot more de After reading The House of Kennedy and Logevall's JFK biography this summer and other JFK and RFK biographies in the past, I was excited to learn more about the father that made it all possible. This biography, like Logevall's JFK biography, is focused on a period of time rather than a whole life, and in this case that period is small, yet pivotal number of years. While Joe Kennedy's term as ambassador have touched on in other Kennedy books I have read, this book definitely reveals a lot more details about his tenure, and the events that led to WW2 from that perspective, than any other I have read. I surprisingly never remember reading that Joe Kennedy's dream for his family was to have a greater impact that the Adams in American history, but this is an important detail mentioned early in this book that serves as a great framework for viewing the events that occurred throughout the time period covered. Joe Kennedy was a man of great ambition who ultimately came up short in his dream to be president himself, and this book gives a great picture of why he came up short but also how he set up his family for future glory and power at the same time. *I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. This is the first thing I've read by the author. I didn't know anything about Joe Kennedy prior to reading this book. The writing was easy to read and well documented. The down side for me was a complete lack of connection with Joe Kennedy. This should be read as a cautionary tale for how a person who seems to have everything can be their own worst enemy. He is completely oblivious to how unliked he is by most of the people around him and he just keeps digging I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. This is the first thing I've read by the author. I didn't know anything about Joe Kennedy prior to reading this book. The writing was easy to read and well documented. The down side for me was a complete lack of connection with Joe Kennedy. This should be read as a cautionary tale for how a person who seems to have everything can be their own worst enemy. He is completely oblivious to how unliked he is by most of the people around him and he just keeps digging the hole deeper. The only redeeming quality seems to be his dedication to his children, unfortunately that dedication doesn't extend to anyone else. His only goal is to get a son as president and to make money. In the end I just couldn't stand the guy. This wasn't the fault of the writer, he just wasn't a person that could be trusted to do the right thing unless there was an advantage to him. After reading this I wondered how his children managed to become political powers and the answer can only be money. The further I read the more difficult it got for me to pick the book back up, luckily there is only about 365 pages (in the edition I have) of actual reading the remainder of the 426+ pages are notes and bibliography.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    This was an interesting read about how self-centered, egotistical and narcissistic Joesph Kennedy was and that he wanted to be an Ambassador in England/St James because of wealth and name. He was initially welcomes but overall bombed/failed at the job because he believed more in commerce as a businessman for political gain. Thank goodness this kept him out of the political scene in Washington. His relationship with FDR was complicated and the two tolerated each other at best. I did not know that This was an interesting read about how self-centered, egotistical and narcissistic Joesph Kennedy was and that he wanted to be an Ambassador in England/St James because of wealth and name. He was initially welcomes but overall bombed/failed at the job because he believed more in commerce as a businessman for political gain. Thank goodness this kept him out of the political scene in Washington. His relationship with FDR was complicated and the two tolerated each other at best. I did not know that much about JPK until reading this book, which was very dull in many spots and sometimes made my eyes glaze over. I did enjoy reading about the complicated relationships he tried to keep in the political scene that he did very little experience in, hoping that his wealth as a businessman would carry him over. Thank goodness JFK and RFK turned out quite different and were better/moral people that their father. Their assassinations are still sad, even though I only learned about them through school and books. Still a recommended read for any history buff. I could tell this was well researched. Thanks to Netgalley, Susan Ronald and St Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 8/3/21

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    As a lover of history books I have a few bad habits - one, I pile up tons of books on different topics and over think reading order or priority. "What to read first - this history of the Russian Revolution or this biography of Lenin?" Two, I pick things that are just massive and span eras or lifetimes and take just as long to read. This was a great change of pace and enjoyable read that I would recommend to just about anyone. It is focused on a familiar period of time but in an area I haven't re As a lover of history books I have a few bad habits - one, I pile up tons of books on different topics and over think reading order or priority. "What to read first - this history of the Russian Revolution or this biography of Lenin?" Two, I pick things that are just massive and span eras or lifetimes and take just as long to read. This was a great change of pace and enjoyable read that I would recommend to just about anyone. It is focused on a familiar period of time but in an area I haven't read a ton about. The focus on this small period of WWII and in Kennedy's life and career was always interesting and will definitely lead me to explore more in related areas of history. I think this story has some commonalities to things in the current day as well - the conflicts that arise between economic focused and people/social focused policies. The idea that improving a nation's economy will inevitably solve many ills that citizens face was just as much of a force then as it is today. Well written, easy to read narrative style, and a memorable story. Definitely recommended. *Provided by NetGalley

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Reading this book I was unpleasantly surprised to see similarities between one of my favorite political families--the Kennedys--and my decidedly most-hated political families--the Trumps. Joseph Kennedy proved early on that the transition from business to politics is not as easy as it looks, regardless of how brash and outspoken you are. True, Kennedy actually made his own fortune and came from an already-established political pedigree (mayor father-in-law, local politician father), but like Tru Reading this book I was unpleasantly surprised to see similarities between one of my favorite political families--the Kennedys--and my decidedly most-hated political families--the Trumps. Joseph Kennedy proved early on that the transition from business to politics is not as easy as it looks, regardless of how brash and outspoken you are. True, Kennedy actually made his own fortune and came from an already-established political pedigree (mayor father-in-law, local politician father), but like Trump, he sought political favor to advance his own family. Regardless of the realities this book exposes (unfortunately, I lost respect for the Kennedys, though I've never been a rah-rah Kennedy person anyway), it is excellently researched, balanced, and fair. The short chapters keep the narrative moving, but I still got bogged down on occasion. It doesn't help that I've been reading so many psychological thrillers that anything requiring concentration is a little beyond me. The book did help me realize that the Kennedy curse comes from a legacy of competition, taking chances, and always needing to be the best. #TheAmbassador #NetGalley

  26. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    The Ambassador is a very interesting and well detailed book. The depth of details on the pages brings it all to life. You can easily picture yourself as a fly on the wall listening to the conversations. I had an opinion of Joe Kennedy, and it was not very favorable based on other details I have read. His anti-Semitic and fascist beliefs are hard to bear and difficult to relate. Given his beliefs and dispositions it is amazing he was appointed ambassador. Joe was unqualified, untrained, and total The Ambassador is a very interesting and well detailed book. The depth of details on the pages brings it all to life. You can easily picture yourself as a fly on the wall listening to the conversations. I had an opinion of Joe Kennedy, and it was not very favorable based on other details I have read. His anti-Semitic and fascist beliefs are hard to bear and difficult to relate. Given his beliefs and dispositions it is amazing he was appointed ambassador. Joe was unqualified, untrained, and totally unreliable having failed at previous positions prior, other than his own self interest in order to better his position and wealth. His failure to see that he was the problem, his opinions were wrong and not that of the State Department is startling. However it appears that being strong willed, opinionated and unloyal to a fault find it easier to blame others, something we still see today, creating havoc where ever they go.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. They say that “ History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.” ( A quote frequently attributed to Mark Twain.) You may think that Donald Trump was the first so-called politician to pay no attention to what was the “ correct” way of doing things,to be a shameless self-promoter that admired dictators, said what he wanted to whether it was true or not, lacked the skill sets to do the job required and put profits before , well, anything. This book will prove otherwise. I found so many similarities be They say that “ History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.” ( A quote frequently attributed to Mark Twain.) You may think that Donald Trump was the first so-called politician to pay no attention to what was the “ correct” way of doing things,to be a shameless self-promoter that admired dictators, said what he wanted to whether it was true or not, lacked the skill sets to do the job required and put profits before , well, anything. This book will prove otherwise. I found so many similarities between Donald Trump and Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy that I took six pages of notes on just that while reading, too much to go into while writing a simple book review. Much research was done by the author while writing this book. Besides the body of the book, it has an extensive list of “ Dramatis Personae “ ( You can’t tell the players without a score card!) Notes, footnotes, endnotes, bibliography and index. I received this book from Goodreads Firstreads. All opinions are my own.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I have never taken the time to read about Joseph Kennedy and I was mesmerized by this well documented, extremely detailed biography of his Ambassadorial years . If he is the man that Ms. Ronald described in this book, it shocks me to know that he survived in his position at the Court of St. James for as long as he did. I don’t in any way doubt the validity of the portrait she painted, but I am struggling to accept that such a man was chosen for this important position ( given his acknowledged sh I have never taken the time to read about Joseph Kennedy and I was mesmerized by this well documented, extremely detailed biography of his Ambassadorial years . If he is the man that Ms. Ronald described in this book, it shocks me to know that he survived in his position at the Court of St. James for as long as he did. I don’t in any way doubt the validity of the portrait she painted, but I am struggling to accept that such a man was chosen for this important position ( given his acknowledged shortcomings and lack of experience) . That choice, and the decision to keep him in his position, reflects directly on Franklin Roosevelt, of course. Putting aside the partisan politics that permeates the Roosevelt- Kennedy relationship, the author demonstrates Mr. Kennedy’s pro-German sensibilities, which given the benefit of history, are disturbing. I appreciated the opportunity provided by NetGalley to read this book in exchange for a candid review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mo Smith

    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. I've read many other books (both historical fiction and nonfiction) about the Kennedys, but I hadn't delved into the patriarch that much. This book was well-organized. I thought it was meticulously researched and chock full of interesting details. That being said, at times it may have been TOO researched, and the sheer volume of information seemed overwhelming and a bit of a slog to get through. I did come I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. I've read many other books (both historical fiction and nonfiction) about the Kennedys, but I hadn't delved into the patriarch that much. This book was well-organized. I thought it was meticulously researched and chock full of interesting details. That being said, at times it may have been TOO researched, and the sheer volume of information seemed overwhelming and a bit of a slog to get through. I did come away from the book learning much more about Joe Kennedy (and how eerily similar his false facts and nonsense is to 45) and have added several books from the bibliography to my reading list. I would recommend this to others who are interested in this time period or the Kennedy family. Thank you to NetGalley and St Martin's Press for the ARC!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lee Husemann

    I have read numerous books about the Kennedys since John F. Kennedy was the president back in the early 60s, but never a book about his father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. This was a real eyeopener as I had not read anything about the family dynamics of Joe, Rose and all the children. Joe was a womanizer and both he and Rose were social climbers who wanted to be part of the high society of London. Joe was sworn in as US Ambassador to Great Britain just before the beginning of World War II. He started I have read numerous books about the Kennedys since John F. Kennedy was the president back in the early 60s, but never a book about his father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. This was a real eyeopener as I had not read anything about the family dynamics of Joe, Rose and all the children. Joe was a womanizer and both he and Rose were social climbers who wanted to be part of the high society of London. Joe was sworn in as US Ambassador to Great Britain just before the beginning of World War II. He started out being very well liked but soon was not liked at all. I enjoyed reading about the children's lives and problems and there was a lot of information that I had not read before. Overall, I really enjoyed this very well-researched and well-written book about the famous Kennedys. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC of this fascinating book.

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