I have read quite a few books on the Kennedys but, in my opinion, nothing compares to Ms. Goodwin’s, “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.” It is a project that took her nine years to complete. The writing, insights, analysis, and the totality of the book is truly amazing which shouldn’t surprise me since Ms. Goodwin is one of the great historians of our time and her biographies on Lincoln, LBJ and Theodore Roosevelt are among my favorite biographies.

The biography begins with the Fitzgerald family arriving from Ireland in the 1850’s and settling in the North End of Boston where conditions were so bad that thirty five out of every one hundred children died before the age of five and the prejudice against Catholics and Irish immigrants was despicable, as was the prejudice against the Italians, Blacks, and Jews.

The Fitzgerald’s moved up in Boston society as a result of John Fitzgerald, Rose’s father, who became an employee of one of the big bosses in the district and who oversaw the young Fitzgerald’s gradual climb up the ladder of politics and eventually becoming the mayor of the city.

Rose would eventually marry Joseph Kennedy whose ambition was insatiable and whose business successes and wealth would make his family’s name synonymous with those of J.P. Morgan and the Rockefeller’s. The details that Ms. Goodwin’s many characters, especially of the Kennedy family and their children, is done with such clarity and personal recollections that by the end of the biography you feel like you have a personal relationship with all of them.

In the truest sense this is a biography of the immigrants who arrived on the shores of America and were treated, in many ways, in such a manner that one could only describe it as inhumane, and by the time Jack Kennedy becomes president these same immigrant groups would become the foundation that built the greatest industrial nation on earth.

Ms. Goodwin toward the end of the book quotes Melville who said, “We are the heirs of all time, and with all nations we divide our inheritance. On this Western Hemisphere all tribes and people are forming into one federated whole; and there is a future which shall see the estranged children of Adam restored as the old hearthstone in (an American) Eden … The seed is sown and the harvest must come.”


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