3 out of 4 stars
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David R. Stokes, in JFK's Ghost, writes about the political enigma that is John F. Kennedy, who is usually referred to as 'Jack' (for consistency, I'll refer to him as 'Kennedy' in this review). He chronicles his life from an early age and the processes of grooming that he undergoes to create an image that will lead him into the 'White House.'
Stokes sheds light on the controversy surrounding the truth of who the actual writer of Profiles in Courage is — Kennedy or Ted Sorensen, his speechwriter. The controversy surrounding the book is exacerbated by the fact that not only does it win Kennedy a Pulitzer but is believed to have also projected his image in a way that guaranteed his political success.
Stokes presents a very artful rendering of Kennedy's life. He tells the story in a futuristic manner, telling us what will happen later, even before he writes it. The creativity he employs in telling the story makes it an exciting read, especially for the class of readers who may not have had substantial insight into Kennedy's political figure. Structurally, the author lays out his narration in chapters that are short and aptly titled.
Though JFK's Ghost is a story about Kennedy, Ted Sorensen, and of course, Profiles in Courage, it also profiles significant figures and the roles they played in America's politics. While readers learn about Kennedy, they also learn about the stoic pillar of his life, Joseph Kennedy Snr., his father. Readers also learn about a publicist extraordinaire and many other political personalities, like Franklin Roosevelt, Sir Winston Churchill, etc. Stokes probes the players' minds in this book, telling their stories as though he is present in every room and part of every conversation. This is the product of excellent and in-depth research on the subject matter.
This book explores political dynamics and power clashes between the major players. It stresses that the right image plays a vital role in the machinery of politics. The painstaking effort that Kennedy's father put in creating a perfect image for his sickly son is proof of this. The controversy surrounding the authorship of Profiles in Courage and the truth of Kennedy's condition as an Addison disease patient shows that a perfect image is an illusion that may very well bode on fraud.
Readers of this book may find themselves thrilled by the political dynamics exposed in it, which may arouse more than a passing excitement in them, maybe a sustained avid interest in politics. Also, that this book is about courage and defying odds makes it a perfect motivational piece. This is seen in the character of Kennedy; despite his sickly nature, he makes it into 'Camelot' and the 'White House.' Readers can either decide to pity or even detest Kennedy or choose to admire and be encouraged by his personality and passions.
This book is highly recommended to readers who love histories and political biographies. Researchers of the subject matter will find it quite helpful. The only issue I have is the number of grammatical errors. Therefore, I rate this book three out of four stars.
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