The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family by Amber Hunt and David Batcher

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The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family by Amber Hunt and David Batcher

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Category: Biography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A sound and readable introduction to the women who married into the Kennedy dynasty.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 360 Date: December 2014
Publisher: Lyons Press
ISBN: 978-0762796342

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The Kennedy dynasty is mainly known for the men who have come to political prominence: Jack Kennedy, the president who was assassinated in November 1963, his brother, Bobby, Jack's Attorney General who would be assassinated in June 1968 and Senator Edward Kennedy the youngest of the nine children - the only one of the brothers who would, as they say, live to comb grey hair. Not quite so much is known about the women who were brave enough to marry into the family and Amber Hunt and David Batcher have set out to give us some background on five of these women: 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.

As the lives of five women are covered in a single volume we can't expect that the women will be examined in any depth, but the authors do a remarkably good job of showing how the women dealt with life within the Kennedy family, and with the fact that their husbands had never seen fidelity in marriage as being of much, if any, importance. (Jack was caught explaining to Ted on the video of his first wedding, that it wasn't necessary to be faithful - and Joan was less than impressed when she saw the result.) The women were also moving from a fairly secluded life into one where they were expected to do their bit in campaigning to have their menfolk elected or reelected. Some dealt with this better than others.

It's unlikely that any of these women would have risen to prominence in their own right, so much of the book tells of their lives in relation to the men they married and to some extent as they played a part in the life of Jack Kennedy. I was impressed by the extent to which the authors managed to avoid being unduly repetitious when they told of how events affected the various women and this made for a more absorbing read. The women who have been more in the public eye - such as Rose and Jackie Kennedy - do come of the page rather better than say, Vicki, who did seem to tame a Kennedy - something not achieved by any of the other women.

The book is a very easy read - it was rather like listening as a friend brought you up-to-date on what had been happening to someone you both knew and liked: there's no malice, no judgement of their actions (such as why they put up with philandering men, or Joan's excess drinking) but rather an acceptance that this was the way that life had worked out for them. For half a century I've read much of what has been written about the Kennedy clan and although I was aware of much of the content of the book there were some facts which shone a new light - such as Jack not having a great deal of time for his mother - and I'd like to thank the publisher for allowing me to read an early proof.

If you'd like to read more about Rose Kennedy, I can recommend Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch by Barbara A Perry, but if you would like to know more about JFK and Bobby Kennedy, have a look at Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot.

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Buy The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family by Amber Hunt and David Batcher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family by Amber Hunt and David Batcher at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family by Amber Hunt and David Batcher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family by Amber Hunt and David Batcher at Amazon.com.

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