3 out of 4 stars
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Kennedy’s Revenge: The Election of 2016 by Stephen L Rodenbeck has an enticing format in which the book is split between both fiction and non-fiction, with alternate chapters for each. This interesting structure is something which originally drew me to the novel, as I haven’t read anything like this before. This novel delves deeply into the history of The United States of America, through events such as civil wars, world wars, and assassinations, whilst simultaneously telling the fictional story of Fitzgerald Cavendish, who finds out that he is the illegitimate son of one of the most popular presidents of the 20th century.
The blurb describes this book as “neither light nor uplifting reading” and I would agree with this to an extent. The non-fiction chapters describing events and conspiracies throughout history felt quite heavy and took a while to read (somewhat because I needed to do some research to help understand the context behind certain events). However, the fictional story of Fitz Cavendish intertwined within these sections kept me interested and eager to read more.
Overall, I would give Kennedy’s Revenge a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. I greatly enjoyed reading about Fitz, his life and struggles, and the mysteries he discovers in relation to his father. I became very fond of his character, and I could never put the book down if the next chapter was one about Fitz. Although the character was not very relatable to me on the surface (male, American, affluent; all things that I would not use to describe myself), I did end up finding myself relating to him on a deeper level.
The non-fiction chapters were informative and very interesting, although they did get a slight bit tedious at times. I feel that this is because, as I am from the UK, I do not have the level of knowledge about American history that the writer assumes the reader will have. This meant that I had to do some of my own research during some chapters just to understand the context behind the conspiracy the author was describing. Despite this, it was fascinating to read about conspiracies which have shrouded historical events such as Lincoln’s assassination, World Wars 1 and 2, and more recent events such as 9-11.
At first, I was unsure about how the fiction and non-fiction sections would fit together but after a few chapters it became clear that the non-fiction sections were important to the story about Fitz. There were a few parts in the book where I would not have understood the fictional story without first understanding the historical mechanisms behind it, for example, the use of debt-free and debt-based money throughout American history.
I have given this book 3 stars rather than 4 because some of the non-fiction sections felt like they were too long, and it would have been nice to have a bit more context included for those who are not from the USA. Otherwise, the story was very compelling and thought-provoking.
The novel seems to have been quite well-edited, as they were few problems except for a small number of minor spelling errors. I would recommend this book to any adults with an interest in history and politics in the USA, as well as those looking for more information about conspiracy theories. I would not recommend this book to people who dislike non-fiction because, although there is a fictional element, the non-fiction sections are quite long. I would not recommend this novel to children or teenagers as there are some graphic scenes (of a sexual and violent nature) towards the end of the book.
In conclusion, I enjoyed reading this novel, and I would welcome any further books with a similar structure incorporating both non-fiction and fiction.
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