Books: The Chronicles of a Dynasty in the Making

Patriarch Joseph Kennedy's papers offer a cumulative portrait of a hard, enigmatic man

Social note from the unreal winter of 1939, at the precipice of world war: Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy reported in his London diary that when he dined at Lady Astor's, he noticed that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had a hole in his sock.

Joe Kennedy, pirate and paterfamilias, son of a Boston Irish saloonkeeper, delighted in the company of the royals. During lunch at Windsor Castle in April 1939, Kennedy told his diary, "Somebody at table discovered a ladybug and Princess Elizabeth suggested it was good luck and sent it along to the Prime Minister. So it came along on...

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