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Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Publication Date: 12/2/2014
My Rating: 5 Stars
A special thank you to Rowman & Littlefield and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
A remarkable book, and a captivating family of five distinct and inspiring women, The Kennedy Wives, "the woman behind each man". Each of these five special and unique women are an integral part of our US history. Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family, is thought-provoking, well-researched, and elegantly portrayed with passion, honesty, and clarity – by talented authors, Amber Hunt and David Batcher.
Each of us may have a favorite(s) Kennedy wife or mother; one we respected, sympathized with, or possibly related to as part of a specific generation, or time. Since I grew up in the fifties/sixties, I have always been intrigued with Jackie Kennedy, the icon; as a wife, mother, and a woman. Her classic style and sophistication has always been timeless, and enjoy the Palm Beach connection, since I reside there. There are so many landmarks and spots which I see every day, reminding me of the history and photographs. The book provided some tidbits about her father and childhood, and teen years which was unaware of.
The book is broken down in parts by each woman: from the cradle, childhood, to marriage, motherhood and beyond; from politics, loves, losses, fears, successes, tragedies, addictions, sickness and health, to the grave.
Part I Rose 1890-1995
Part II Ethel 1928
Part III Jackie 1929-1994
Part IV Joan 1936
Part V Vicki 1954
The Kennedy family, of course is known for its politics, the public figure, the man, his intellect, and power behind the name. Jack Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963 (remember this like it was yesterday when the teacher came into the classroom crying); his brother Bobby, Jack’s Attorney General who would also be assassinated in 1968, and Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy the youngest of the nine children who lived longer. Soon after Bobby's death, Ted received one of many ominous letters and threatening him not to run for President or VP.
Ted maintained a deferential attitude towards the older, seniority-laden Southern members when he first entered the Senate, avoiding publicity and focusing on committee work and local issues. Compared to his brothers in office, he lacked John's sophistication and Robert's intense, sometimes grating drive, but was more affable than either of them.
Amber Hunt and David Batcher delivers a “must read” classic account of the five brave women who married and stood behind these powerful men. Rose Kennedy the matriarch of the family and wife of Joe Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of Jack, Ethel, wife of Bobby and Joan and Vicki, the first and second wives of Teddy Kennedy.
By the time Jackie met John, he was one of the most sought-after men on the East Coast, a junior congressman with an eye on a Senate seat. She would fall for his many virtues, and in time come to learn about the darker components of his complex personality.
Jacqueline Kennedy the woman continued long after the death of Jack Kennedy. But the mythic figure we remember today was forged largely in that week in Nov, 1963, when though a disoriented and grief-stricken widow, she used her own brilliant alchemy to create, with simple words and stark imagery, an enduring, heroic, romantic picture of what our country could be.
John Jr. had the best Kennedy qualities—the looks, the smarts, the discipline, and the zest for life. Ted had stayed close with Jackie through the years and he had loved her dearly and after her death he felt even more protective of her two children. John Jr. had always been seen as heir to Jack’s throne, and thanks to Jackie’s grounding influence, not just by birthright. Though he never ran for office, he was an important behind the scenes player throwing his name and money behind the Democratic causes and candidates. Then another Kennedy had been taken in his prime and Ted was heartbroken.
Readers may sympathize with these women, married to powerful, dark, and not always the perfect nor faithful husband, with ongoing threats to their lives as well as their family, pressure and demands. As they each faced their demons, the press, and tragedies in different ways, as reiterated with Ted/Vicki’s mantra “One step at a time.”
There was always a time and place when each of these women had to be strong: a day in 1963 when Jackie Kennedy faced the world without Jack. A day in 1968 when Ethel had ten children, an eleventh on the way, and had to walk forward without Bobby by her side. The next year, Rose returned to an empty house in Hyannis Port after burying her husband near their first home in Brookline. Even Joan had to go about the task of inventing a new life in Boston after her marriage to Teddy ended. Now Vicki found herself where each of the others had stood; staring into the future, her husband gone, memories to fortify her, and their shared ideals to carry forward.
“Their experience of wealth and power, love, loss, and tragedy occurred at such a heightened level that is tempting to see them as mythic, almost archetypal creatures. But Rose, Ethel, Jackie, Joan and Vicki were and are stubbornly fleshy in their humanity, and they give all of us, men and women, powerful examples of what everyday strength, resilience, and grace can look like. It’s because of their refusal to ossify into sterile sainthood that they will always fascinate—and always inspire.”
The Kennedy Wives is well-organized, and enjoyed the easy to read format and review of history, the writing style, and the well-researched material, making for an engaging and satisfying read. Highly recommend.