Review: Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (July 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1594487197
  • Source: Publisher

The potential for war with Europe is every present. Without an intelligence agency, President Franklin Roosevelt, planning to run for a third term, has no way of predicting the actions of the Nazis. He needs someone to go in as an insider, to track the movements and actions of the country’s political adversaries. Someone he can trust. His choice is not an obvious one, to say the least. Roosevelt calls upon Jack Kennedy, the twenty-two year old son of Joseph Kennedy, the President’s ambassador to Brittan.

Jack is Joe Kennedy’s second son, more of a playboy than anything. Planning to travel through Europe, allegedly to do research for this thesis paper, he is the perfect person to suit Roosevelt’s needs. Roosevelt’s goal: to stop the flow of money coming into the states from Germany, a flow of money hoping to influence the election. Jack readily accepts the request. Always in the shadow of his older brother, this mission will give him a chance to show his worth.

Not surprising to Jack, his father has his own political future in mind and it doesn’t exactly mesh with Roosevelt’s As his mission progresses, however, he learns his father is more involved than he could have ever imagined. Meanwhile, Jack’s life is threatened when he becomes involved in a series of murders indicating Hitler has more of a presence in the states than previously believed.  All the while, Jack is self-medicating,  inserting  a tablet into the muscle of his leg to treat a whole host of undiagnosable medical issues.

Admittedly, when I learned of the premise of this novel I was a little wary. JFK, spy? Any feelings of nervousness were diminished when I read more about the author’s history and experience as a former analyst for the CIA.  Mathews intricately weaves a pretty thrilling story with an inside look at one of our nation’s most valuable and well-known families.  She blends historical fact with fiction so perfectly that the reader is left questioning the truth and accuracy of every detail.

JFK’s character is an arrogant one. Having survived a multitude of medical issues starting with his childhood, he seems to have a god-complex, unable killed or injured. That said, as more is revealed in his “explorations” throughout Europe, his own mortality, and the mortality of those around him, is recognized.

As with many Americans, I have sort of an idolized memory of JFK, but more as an adult. I was never really familiar with his youth and his young adult years. That said, due to my strong feelings of respect for him as an adult, I found myself distancing myself from his character in this novel at first, almost ignoring the fact he was JFK and instead treating him as a typical, average character.  Ultimately, however, the “what if” won out and I was truly taken with the JFK, secret spy character.

If you are looking for a great spy novel to take along with you to the beach, or a means to aid in your Mad Men withdrawals, this is the novel for you. Recommended.

2 thoughts on “Review: Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews

  1. Pingback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week? | Jenn's Bookshelves

  2. When I first heard about this book from Lydia, I seriously thought it was nonfiction. I thought it was just a face of JFK’s life I knew nothing about. When I received it and realized it was a novel, I was surprised but went with it.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was pure fun, and as I mentioned in my review, the worst part was that I wished it were real. :)


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