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Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.

Jack 1939

Jack 1939 - Francine Mathews

Mostly wonderfulCould young JFK have been a pre-WWII spy for FDR? Author Francine Mathews has done her historical homework and created a mostly wonderful story that makes the possibility seem plausible. In 1939 the then 22-year-old John Kennedy was in fact roaming around the hot spots of Europe. His father Joe Kennedy was the American ambassador to Britain, and while the senior Kennedy supported Neville Chamberlin’s policy of appeasing Hitler to avoid war, JFK’s own writings indicate his thinking was more in line with Roosevelt’s than his father’s. The difference of opinion between father and son creates some of the dramatic tension in this book.


Though most of the book is a masterly and imaginative mix of history, suspense and intrigue, a few characters marred the story for me. JFK's love interest is a one dimensional parody of sophistication or elegance and more comic than convincing. Some of Kennedy's early interactions with her verge on sexual assault which makes for unappealing reading. Also, early parts of the book spend too much time on a cheesy semi-rouge Nazi villain instead of the more interesting larger Nazi schemes.


But in spite of those personal preferences issues Jack 1939 is still entertaining enough that I read it straight through. I enjoyed seeing a younger version of the future president, physically weak and battling illness but still charming and full of determination. For Mitford family fans, several of the sisters are mentioned in the narrative, and Debo even has a brief speaking part. In real life JFK’s lively sister Kick was friends with Deborah, and later married the brother of Deborah Mitford’s husband. They were all close enough that Deborah attended both JFK’s inauguration and his funeral so it’s only fitting that Debo makes an appearance here.