Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch by Barbara A Perry
|Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch by Barbara A Perry|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Immaculately researched and very readable look at the motherof the Kennedy family. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: September 2013|
|Publisher: W W Norton|
It's about fifty years since the assassination of President John F Kennedy and it was he (and particularly his death) who brought the Kennedy family to the attention of a new generation. An earlier generation had been split about the virtues (or otherwise) of his father, Joe Kennedy, multi millionaire and United States Ambassador to Great Britain. But behind both of these men was mother and wife, Rose Kennedy and Barbara A Perry has produced a superb biography using letters, diaries and other archived material recently made available.
She was born in 1890, the daughter of John Francis Fitzgerald - otherwise known as Honey Fitz, sometime mayor of Boston and member of the US House of Representatives. Her family were initially against her relationship with Joseph Patrick Kennedy but she persisted with the relationship and they were eventually married. She would bear him nine children in more than fifty years of married life. Always a positive personality and buoyed by her strong Catholic faith she turned a blind eye to her husband's philandering and concentrated on making the most of her family. Her care - reaching into their adult life - was obsessive but there can be no doubt about the love the children had for her.
Her eldest child, Joe Jr died over the English Channel when his plane exploded in the Second World War and only a few years later her second daughter, Kathleen Kick, died in a plane crash. Her eldest daughter, Rosemary, suffered mental problems and was institutionalised after a failed lobotomy in 1949. By 1959 three of her four eldest children were lost - or effectively lost - to her. The fourth - Jack - would be assassinated in 1963, less than two years after her husband suffered a major stroke.
Despite being in her late sixties when Jack was running for President Rose campaigned extensively and very effectively for him, as she would with Bobby - assassinated in 1968 and for Teddy (Senator Edward Kennedy) when he ran for the Senate. She became a celebrity in her own right but made great use of her status to forward her and her family's philanthropic enterprises, which were more extensive than is generally credited.
This could have been a boring book about someone who saw herself primarily as a wife and a mother who would bow to her husband's views. It's anything but. Perry's research has been exhaustive and it's obvious that she has extensive knowledge of the Kennedy family as a whole rather than just this particular member. There's an obvious affection for Rose Kennedy whilst still acknowledging that she was regularly self-indulgent, domineering and interfering and really didn't know when to let the family be. She came off the page in her own right rather than as a relative of the important people.
For such an immaculately researched book it makes for remarkably easy reading - and that was for someone who knew the story well. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
Books about JFK will abound in 2013, but this one approaches the story from a new angle, shining a light on the family through the mother. For another unusual look at JFK we can recommend Kennedy: A Cultural History of an American Icon by Mark White which looks at the way JFK's image was built and maintained after his death. For more about the Kennedy women, we can recommend The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family by Amber Hunt and David Batcher.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch by Barbara A Perry at Amazon.com.
Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch by Barbara A Perry is in the Top Ten Books on President John F Kennedy.
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