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The House of Kennedy

Review

The House of Kennedy

Bestselling author James Patterson and former New York Post reporter and TV producer Cynthia Fagen have created a lively record of the lives and deaths of some of the better known members of the Kennedy clan.

Their new examination of a family that many think of as cursed was released just days after two more Kennedys met tragic ends, as Bobby’s granddaughter and great-grandson drowned in a boating accident. The founding father of these American legends was the entrepreneurially determined Joe Kennedy, himself the son of poor Irish immigrants, a heritage he never forgot and inculcated into the strict upbringing of his children. As Eunice Kennedy would say, “The big thing we learned from Daddy was win.” Though Joe was not interested in the war brewing in Europe and had disdain for the Jews suffering there, his eldest son, Joe Jr., joined the Navy in World War II and was killed in a plane crash while on duty.

"...a lively record of the lives and deaths of some of the better known members of the Kennedy clan.... Most readers already will have formed a picture of the Kennedys, and this book may enhance that perception or alter it."

Doubtless the best-known Kennedy, Jack was killed by an assassin’s bullet, an incident that was recorded on live television in 1963. Bobby took on the mantle of political fame and then himself was slain, like Jack, by an obscure little man with murky motives. Ted, who died of natural causes, had a life marred by scandal, including the mysterious abandonment of a female companion who drowned when he drove them off a bridge after a wild party while intoxicated.

Joe was ashamed of his daughter, Rosemary, a beautiful young woman who had intellectual disabilities, which were little understood at the time. At his insistence, she was lobotomized; the hope was that this would provide a cure, but instead it rendered her mute and helpless for the rest of her life. Kathleen, known as Kick, also succumbed to a plane crash, and yet another such tragedy occurred when Jack’s son, John Jr. --- probably under the influence of medication --- crashed a private plane carrying his wife and her sister. All three were lost.

Constructed from a plethora of sources, THE HOUSE OF KENNEDY is episodic, offering many personal vignettes to underscore the narrative’s basic premise: this legendary family, who felt the burden of their wealth and fame and tried to handle it responsibly, also felt the shadow of misfortune and conflicted self-esteem. Most readers already will have formed a picture of the Kennedys, and this book may enhance that perception or alter it. The ethos of the clan involved public service contrasted with private improprieties, with an overarching theme: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Perhaps that edict proved too onerous to some of the Kennedys, making them believe that they were born to tempt fate and overcome all odds. Sadly, their attempts have often proved futile, and fatal, as Patterson and Fagen remind us.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on April 17, 2020

The House of Kennedy
by James Patterson and Cynthia Fagen

  • Publication Date: April 13, 2020
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316454486
  • ISBN-13: 9780316454483