*Lydia with Riverhead Books sent me this novel in exchange for an honest review.
In 1939, Jack Kennedy is 22, in poor health, and trying to convince his doctors to release him so he can travel through Europe working on his Harvard senior thesis. Yes, war is on the horizon, but Jack is the son of an ambassador and likely to die before he reaches 30 anyway. In the meantime, the United States has no intelligence service, and someone is funneling Nazi money into the United States to prevent President Roosevelt from winning the 1940 election. Using the convenience of Jack’s trip and his status, Roosevelt recruits him as his personal spy, asking Jack to keep an eye on the situation.
My biggest complaint about this book? I so wanted it to be true. Even though there’s a big old tab telling me that Jack 1939 is “A NOVEL,” somehow my brain thought: JACK KENNEDY WAS A SPY. Until I realized it wasn’t true. So yeah, JFK as a spy, cavorting around Europe with women, dodging bullets and a brutish killer? Yes, please.
John F. Kennedy actually was in Europe in 1939, researching for his senior thesis, which would be published in 1940 under the title Why England Slept. He was also extremely ill as a young man, spending extensive amounts of time in medical facilities, his family all elsewhere. These are aspects of the legendary John F. Kennedy I did not know, and this novel is definitely one that you’ll pull out ye olde encyclopedia or ye new iPhone and Google to your heart’s content.