Over time, stories of decades often are reduced to key events. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is certainly one of those events. It tops the list of pivotal moments in the 1960s, a decade of great promise and disappointment. In JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President, author Thurston Clarke expands the story of the early 1960s, reminding older readers of the complex national and international politics of the Kennedy White House.
Like many history books focusing on specific time frames, JFK's Last Hundred Days includes many stories from outside its focus. Clarke includes accounts of John F. Kennedy's childhood, youth, service in World War II, early political career, marriage, and first two years as president. These accounts are inserted as flashbacks as Clarke counts down the days to Kennedy's visit to Dallas in November 1963. In doing thus, Clarke makes almost every day rich and lively. Deep in details, though I certainly knew the outcome of the story and noticed foreshadowing, the assassination still seemed to spring on me as a reader.
Clarke's attitude toward his subject is apparent from the title. What might not be expected by readers is how thoroughly the author describes Kennedy's faults, such as vanity, recklessness toward personal safety, and adultery. Whether the reader leaves the book with a positive, negative, or mixed attitude may depend more on the reader than the author's story. Clarke seems to tell us everything.
Like all good history, JFK's Last Hundred Days is still relevant. Readers may rethink whether today's politics is really meaner than ever before. They may also question whether promises to keep American soldiers out of combat zones will be kept. The audiobook is a good option for busy readers.
Clarke, Thurston. JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President. Penguin Press, 2013. 432p. ISBN 9781594204258.
Audiobook. Penguin Audio, 2013. 12 compact discs. ISBN 9781611761719.