A Look Back At John F. Kennedy

JFK’s LAST HUNDRED DAYS:The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President

JFK'sLast100DaysAuthor: Thurston Clarke

Publisher: Penguin Press, July 2013

Genre: Biography/History

Format: Audiobook, Read by Malcolm Hillgarther

Source: The publisher

My Rating: B

Everyone in my generation has answered this question numerous times:

Where were you on November 22, 1963?

It’s a date and an event we’ll never forget. That’s the day President Kennedy was assassinated.

It’s hard to explain the incredible impact this event had on our thinking, our emotions, and, for some of us, our actions. But here we are, fifty years later. It’s time to look back and remember.

So many books have been written about JFK over the years, and many more now to celebrate this anniversary. I chose to read this one, JFK’s Last Hundred Days, because I liked the idea of focusing on the last few months of his life. What was he doing just before he died?

The author, historian Thurston Clarke, tried to create an in-depth look at the former President. He divided the books up by days and made it feel like a diary or a journal. Mr. Clarke showed us the events that happened on each day and at the same time gave us background on that event, sometimes personal background and sometimes political.

As the book opens we see JFK rushing to be with his wife and then rushing to Boston with their two-day-old premature son. The baby died while the president held his tiny hand. We see how that event really shook the president and caused him to make a sincere effort to be a better husband and father. The author didn’t hide JFK’s extensive womanizing, but honestly believed the president was a changed man.

The personal life of JFK, both at that time and other events in his earlier life, are interspersed with the president’s politics and policies. There is a recap of the schools he attended and his pt-boat experience during the war. At the beginning of the book there is a statement about his older brother Joseph who died in World War II: Jack didn’t just take the place of his older brother, he lived his life.

During these last months of his life, JFK examined and worked on issues such as the test-ban treaty, U.S. military presence in Vietnam, civil rights and so forth. Unfortunately, this book makes assumptions about what JFK would have done had he lived that seemed over the edge. For instance, the author implies that JFK was planning to bring home the advisors from Vietnam in order to keep the war from expanding.

All of the information in this book was obtained from numerous sources such as other books, papers, friends and associates of the former president. Other reviewers have questioned the authenticity of some of this information. There’s no way I’ll ever know for sure. The author is a fan of JFK and presented him in positive terms.

However, if the author was trying to show that JFK was a truly great president as the subtitle of this book implies, I think he missed the mark. Kennedy didn’t live long enough, wasn’t in the office long enough to accomplish that. That’s the real tragedy of this assassination. It’s why the assassination meant so much to my generation. We saw the promise of what could have been and then saw that promise cut short. Our assignment was to live our lives fully and to carry on the promise that had been ended.

Do I recommend this book to you? Yes. I mentally talked and argued with the author all the way through the book, but that’s why I can say read it for yourself. It will be good for reminiscing about those “good/bad old days” and for discussion.

Do you remember where you were on November 22, 1963?

I listened to the audiobook version provided for me by Penguin Audio.


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3 Responses to A Look Back At John F. Kennedy

  1. I was 5 when JFK was assassinated and have very vague memories of the event. I’m sure there will be a lot of books about him out this year and I may wait to see which ones come out on top.

  2. I was in 5th grade in Miss Finn’s class LOL- what a flashback:) Glad u enjoyed the audio. Born and raised in MA, my family has always been fond of the Kennedys.

  3. jenclair says:

    I was between classes at Youree Drive Junior High School. Shock and chaos.

    Recently saw Parkland which revived questions about the time. Then I had an offer for The Man Who Killed Kennedy: the Case Against LBJ, an ARC. My husband is reading it now.

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