cover image JFK: Reckless Youth

JFK: Reckless Youth

Nigel Hamilton, Hamilton Nigel. Random House Inc, $30 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41216-8

Riveting, impressively researched, at times shocking, this first in a multi-volume life of John F. Kennedy lays bare the bruised, narcissistic psyche behind his charismatic facade. In this volume we meet a fun-loving but emotionally confused youth, deeply affected by the loveless union between his bullying, demanding father, Joseph, and his sanctimonious, prudish mother, Rose--a woman JFK increasingly regarded with contempt. We see him become a 19-year-old aide to his father, who was U.S. ambassador to Britain from 1938 to 1940 and an arch appeaser of Hitler; we read how the son steps out from his father's shadow and reverses his own isolationist stance. We see him mature as commander of an ill-fated PT boat in the Pacific and learn of his love affair with Danish reporter Inga Arvad, an associate of Hitler and Goebbels, whom the FBI suspected of being a Nazi spy. We leave him at the end of this volume as congressman-elect in 1946, in the process of transforming himself into an unsavory politican for whom the chase was the challenge--with voters as with women. Hamilton ( The Brothers Mann ) has written a remarkably fresh work that promises to be the fullest, most revealing portrait of Kennedy's personal and political development. Photos. Author tour. (Nov.)