Book Review: End of Days – James Swanson

End of Days coverTitle: End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Author:  James Swanson
ISBN: 9780062083487
Pages: 416
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

With the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination approaching, the murder of the young president in Dallas, Texas, has once again captured the country’s imagination. Historian James Swanson presents a new look at the events leading up to the assassination, as well as the fateful day itself and its aftermath. Absent of any conspiracy theories, this is a straightforward look at the assassination of JFK.

Snapshot Review:

Anyone interested in reading more about the assassination of JFK, without the conspiracy theories or “second gunman” claims, should seek out End of Days. The writing style is a bit simplistic, and Swanson takes some liberties with Lee Harvey Oswald’s point of view, but this is a solidly pieced together account, not just of the crime itself, but what came before and after it.

Full Review:

There are plenty of books out there describing different conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy. And indeed, anyone who looks at the official record is bound to have some questions: There seems to be information missing, and the facts don’t seem to fit the narrative presented. It’s gotten to the point that, when the assassination comes up, the first thing people think about are the conspiracies, rather than the tragic loss of a president and a country that mourned. In his book End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Swanson takes a step back, giving us a step-by-step account of what we know happened.

That’s not to say that Swanson doesn’t take a few liberties himself in End of Days. The entire book is written in a narrative style, which makes it easier to read (think nonfiction that reads like fiction), so it’s interesting that Swanson chose to narrate part of his story from Lee Harvey Oswald’s point of view. As most people know, he’s been dead for a very long time, so it’s not really easy to surmise his thoughts and motivations so far after the fact. That’s not to say that Swanson didn’t research this book impeccably; he told the best story he could from the information he had, and he does a great job with that.

As I’ve said, End of Days is very easy to read. In fact, some readers might feel that the writing style is a bit too simplistic. There’s a lot of information within the pages of this book, but the fact that it seems to be written at slightly below the normal level of a history book makes it seem like there isn’t, as if there’s not quite enough depth in the book. That’s not the case, and it takes a bit of time to realize why that niggling feeling persists while reading. This is actually a well-researched and thorough account.

One interesting aspect of End of Days is Swanson’s focus on Jackie Kennedy. Her world ended on that fateful day in Dallas as well, as Swanson points out. After his death, she made a concerted effort to build JFK’s legacy; this is a part of the story I hadn’t heard before, and thus found fascinating. The book as a whole takes the disparate pieces, the anecdotes we’ve all heard about JFK’s assassination, and puts them together into one coherent, easily accessible story. It’s easy to see the cause and effect in this narrative, the turning points from which there was no going back. Though we all know how sadly it will end, this is absolutely a book worth reading if you’re interested in the Kennedy assassination.

Other books by James Swanson:

Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse

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Comments

  1. It’s so hard to pick apart which Kennedy books are worth reading, especially with the flood of them coming out this year, but I like that this one doesn’t spend too much time on the conspiracy theories. It would be nice to read a concise, well-researched book that just gathers together everything that is known, and this sounds like it could be it.

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