JFK and RFK: ‘The Brothers’ by David Talbot – Book Review

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There have been many books written about John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his brother, Robert Francis Kennedy, both victims of assassination. In my opinion this is one of the best.

Impeccably researched, this book, ‘The Brothers’ (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster), written by David Talbot, roughly covers that roller coaster period from JFK‘s inauguration on January 20 1961 to the assassination of RFK on June 6 1968. It was a relatively short period of nearly seven and a half years, yet the whole world had been transformed — and mostly not for the better in my opinion.

Disaster and Tragedy

For me what makes this book stand out is the sheer number of interviews (150+) the author has carried out, with people who were there and in the know. For example, leaders like Fidel Castro of Cuba and Che Guevara seem to emerge like more rounded figures, not merely the one dimensional characters often portrayed in most media over the last sixty years.

More than this, the author tells is it how it was: from the disaster of the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and the sheer hatred generated among those who felt the newly elected president had let their side down by refusing to provide air cover, to the short, fraught, heroic, yet ultimately ill-fated and tragic presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy in the early summer of 1968.

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Conspiracies Galore

The author does not hold back on analysing the myriad conspiracy theories either, which began to emerge largely as a result of the voluminous criticism which gradually amassed after the publication of the Warren Commission Report in September 1964. And there were other doubters from the word go.

Most intriguing of all is his description of the torture Robert Kennedy went through following his brother’s death. Attorney General to JFK, he remained in his position until August 1964 when he decided to run for Senator of New York. It’s possible that RFK may have thought he was somehow responsible for not protecting his brother more during his presidency.

Treading a Very Fine Line

What is more, for the next four and a half years, up until his own death, Bobby too harboured strong suspicions that the whole truth about his brother’s death had not yet been told.

Nevertheless, in public he always retained a consistent front in support of the conclusions of the Warren Report. He was, in effect, seemingly keeping his powder dry until such a time he could investigate further from a position of strength – namely as President of the United States.

We all know this was not to be, that the so-called ‘Kennedy Curse’ was to strike once again. However, this is a very fine book and I was left feeling that a lot more light had been cast on those often dark, crazy, tempestuous, tortuous years into which I too had been thrown.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020