In 1939, a twenty-two-year-old John "Jack" Fitzgerald Kennedy was preparing to sail to Europe in order to research his senior thesis for Harvard. We also know that World War II was brewing. With little known about the events of Kennedy's travels during this time, Francine Mathews saw it as the perfect opportunity to imagine just what Kennedy was doing.
Being as Mathews is the author of spy novels and there were no American spies at the time, Mathews' mind went immediately to that scenario, and that is the basis of JACK 1939. Franklin D. Roosevelt summons Kennedy to enlist his help. No one would suspect the young college student traveling around Europe was a spy for the president. It was the perfect arrangement. And Kennedy, convinced he would die before his 30th birthday, was a risk taker; he was also devoted to his country. He would help President Roosevelt in his efforts to stop the German money coming into the United States; money used to fund movements against the president.
If it's possible to have a love affair with a book, I had one with JACK 1939. Kennedy was assassinated before I was born, but he was a strong presence in our home as my dad admired him greatly. So there's always been a bit of mysticism surrounding him for me. Mathews captured that mysticism through her portrayal of a young man with aspirations simply to live life to the fullest while he was able.
Mathews created a Jack Kennedy who was spirited and passionate and witty. The relationships he builds, often easily as he has a magnetic personality, are complex and fascinating. The interactions between Kennedy and his family members heighten the understanding of Jack himself. And throughout the novel, readers will have to remind themselves that the book is a novel, fiction. Mathews has done such a superb job of melding the fact and the fiction that readers may likely feel the need to Google regularly in order to know where the blurry lines are in this adventure.
The intrigue of the plot is maintained throughout the six-month time frame and will leave readers wanting to know what happens next. The action of the novel keeps the pace swift and suspenseful: psychotic knife murders, money-laundering nuns, secret codes, narrow escapes, beautiful women and the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover.
The symbolism and subtle nuances throughout the book delve into the time period and the characters involved, creating a rich reading experience. This is a book worth re-reading to catch all the subtleties weaved into the pages.
JACK 1939 is an exciting historical thriller; it's an engaging spy novel; it's even a gripping romance. JACK 1939 is simply a stunning read.
JACK 1939 is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-1594487194) from Riverhead Books. Right now there is not an audio version as far as I know, though I'd love to see one recorded. Throughout the novel I couldn't help but hear Boston vowels in all the dialogue!