cover image Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House

Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House

Robert Dallek. Harper, $32.50 (512p) ISBN 978-0-06-206584-1

Non-experts are likely to have a hard time assessing what significant new facts are revealed in this meticulous but well-trod account of J.F.K.’s tenure in the White House. Dallek (An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963) walks the reader through the basics: Joseph Kennedy Sr.’s ambitions; his congressional years; and his years in the White House dealing with the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Cuba. Kennedy’s relationship with his advisers, dubbed “the best and the brightest” (Robert McNamara, Ted Sorenson, McGeorge Bundy, et al.), has also been thoroughly described elsewhere. The conclusions Dallek reaches are less than profound or original: “The affection for [J.F.K.] generated by his persona and the tragedy of his assassination have encouraged positive assessments of his leadership.” And despite the book’s length, there are important omissions: Dallek’s discussion of Kennedy’s sexual appetites in the first chapter relies heavily on the 2012 tell-all memoir of intern Mimi Alford, but readers are given no basis against which to assess the reliability of her account. Dallek may well have strong reasons for relying on her, but, inexplicably, he doesn’t tell us what they are. (Oct.)