The Kennedy Moment

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Shortlisted   —Mogford Prize for 'How to Boil an Egg'2020

Shortlisted   —Staunch Book Prize2018

‘Reads like an Elmore Leonard novel, only with more emotion and more depth. I was spellbound, in genuine suspense.’—Adam Fifield

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Daring, ingenious and profoundly moving, The Kennedy Moment is masterful storytelling from an author whose career has put him at the heart of international affairs.

Dr Michael Lowell—a mild–mannered American, unshakeably decent and at the top of his profession—accepts an invitation to a weekend reunion of Oxford college friends. He is looking forward to meeting some of them—including front-line Canadian medic Hélène Hevré and the Australian advertising genius Toby Jenks. But the big attraction is the serene young woman from Karachi who rejected him twenty years ago because he was ‘just a little bit too dull’.

As the weekend gets under way and old loves and tensions arise, an audacious suggestion is made. It begins as a joke. But it is a joke that none of them can forget.

Moving between Oxford, New York, Washington, Geneva and Abidjan, this compelling political thriller is the story of five ordinary people who find themselves drawn into an extraordinary conspiracy—a gamble that could force the hand of governments and affect the lives of millions. But if it should go wrong, the risk to their own lives is incalculable.

Publishers Weekly

4 September 2019

At the start of this slow-moving, if high-minded, political thriller from Adamson (The Tuscan Master), Oxford don Stephen Walsh invites a few college chums back to their alma mater for an informal 20th reunion in October 1980. Stephen calculates that the four members of the old gang who accept will just happen to be there to witness his anticipated promotion to Regius Professor. Just like Stephen’s appointment, however, little goes according to plan when his old friends join him for what begins as a bittersweet stroll down memory lane but morphs into a potentially life-shattering conspiracy. The impetus for the audacious plot comes from two of the group—Hélène Hevré, a Canadian physician, and American Mike Lowell, a World Health Organization epidemiologist—who have devoted their lives to public health but become bitter watching five million children a year die from diseases that could have been prevented with vaccines costing pennies. Like his characters, former UNICEF executive Adamson clearly has his heart in the right place, but too often his elegant pages have all the urgency of a boozy late-night bull session. (Oct.)

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New Books

1 March 2019

An exciting and fast-paced political thriller, The Kennedy Moment is a moving story about how ordinary people with enough passion and ingenuity can effect real and lasting change of huge importance. It is a book that will stay with you long after you’ve finished it.

It’s April 1980 when Stephen Walsh sends a reunion invitation to university friends who haven’t met together for 20 years, “to eat, drink and be miserable, lament how middle-aged we are, and talk about who we were and what we were going to do and what’s become of us all”. This invitation, with postscripts personal to each of them, is sufficiently tempting for Helene, Toby, Michael and Seema to travel to join him for a weekend in Oxford that October. Amidst their discussions, a casual remark, laughed off at first as a joke, leads them all into a daring conspiracy that forms the novel’s plot. We experience their professional lives in Oxford, New York, Washington, Geneva and Abidjan as events unfold and, with the secret that they are now sharing, how their personal lives develop and change.

For 16 years Peter Adamson was Senior Adviser to the Executive Director of UNICEF in New York, and this role enables him to write confidently and convincingly about political realities and what ingredients are needed to build a compelling story that will convince top policy makers and politicians. He also writes knowledgeably about the central theme, the delivery of a mass programme of immunisation, making a complicated subject intelligible for the reader.

The Kennedy Moment is an extraordinary novel. It is very well written – I was captivated from the start and found it hard to put it down until I’d reached the last page. The final section is even more amazing than the novel itself, though you MUST wait until you’ve read the book before you read it. I engaged completely with the sensitively drawn characters, their obsessions, ambitions and disappointments. For example, I was touched by how Toby, the marketing whiz-kid, dissatisfied with what he had achieved, depressed that he is on the downward slope of his career, crafted the most important and amazing speech of his life.

Peter Adamson provides some elegant touches in the presentation of the book. The title of each chapter is actually an extract from the text of that chapter. This acts cleverly as both signpost and ‘teaser’ for what is to follow.

The Kennedy Moment was a great personal read, a powerful story and a recommendation that I will pass on to family and friends. Of course, it will also be a great book for reading groups. Very highly recommended.

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