cover image Robert Kennedy: His Life

Robert Kennedy: His Life

Evan Thomas / Author Simon & Schuster $28 (512p) ISBN 978-0-68

Thomas has made a career writing about Washington insiders (he was co-author, with Walter Isaacson, of The Wise Men). A high-ranking editor at Newsweek, Thomas (an insider himself) has now written a nuanced biography of one of the 20th century's most iconic insiders. Although there are no startling revelations in this capably written, thick book, there is a lot of new information, thanks to the increasing openness of Kennedy's surviving colleagues and the new availability of oral histories, RFK's personal files, declassified national security documents and other sources. As a result, Thomas offers an illumination of the man's failings as well as his strengths, and unravels the complex knot of relationships within the Kennedy family. Portraying RFK as a man whose ""house had many mansions,"" Thomas calls him ""the lucky one""--he was raised in the shadow of his brothers, and his passion-filled life shined a light into ""the family cave"" of secrets. Throughout, Thomas highlights the contradictions of Kennedy's persona--he was an extraordinarily wealthy individual who could act spoiled one day, then express empathy with the have-nots on the next; he was a devoted, sometimes around-the-clock protector of his often wayward older brother, John, but still established his own career; he was shy but sought out publicity; and he was an enthusiastic family man who ran for the presidency despite its obvious risks. Though primarily a tribute to a man whose potential for greatness was cut short, Thomas's book sheds new light on a man--and an era, and a family--about whom Americans will probably never know the whole truth. (Sept.)