6 New Books About the Kennedys Land on Shelves

4 minute read

American interest in the Kennedy family never seems to fade: from best-selling biographies to ill-fated mini-series, we seem to be perennially obsessed with Camelot.

Six new books covering several branches of the Kennedy family tree aim to sate that interest. Two books document the life of Rosemary Kennedy, daughter of Joseph and Rose, who underwent a lobotomy when that operation was still common practice. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Ted Kennedy each get the biography treatment, and Ted’s son, Patrick J. Kennedy, has written a memoir about his experience with addiction and mental illness. And another book focuses on the most famous Kennedy of all, JFK, and his experience on the motor torpedo boat PT-109, which made him a war hero.

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

By Kate Clifford Larson

“Did Joe tell his daughter that she was going to have a [lobotomy]? Did she ask him questions about it, and did he answer them truthfully? Did he convincer her that it was her decision but that he wanted her to do it? Joe knew Rosemary loved her ‘Daddy’ and would not want to disappoint him. Did he tell her that her behavior had disappointed him, and that her mother and sisters and brothers were concerned and frightened by her? What did she think? We can only imagine.”

Oct. 6

The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women

Bancroft Press

By Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff

“Rosemary had to relearn many basic skills: how to walk, follow simple directions, communicate, and finally, with my aunt, toilet-training skills. She was never again the energetic person she had been before her surgery … Rose Kennedy and the rest of her family did not learn of Rosemary’s surgery for 20 years.”

Oct. 1

Lion of the Senate: When Ted Kennedy Rallied the Democrats in a GOP Congress

Simon & Schuster

By Nick Littlefield and David Nexon

“For the first two months of 1996, the Senate and House had basically been out of session, with Dole campaigning in the primary states. When the Senate came back in session at the beginning of March, Dole was ready to move forward with his strategy of showing that he could rise above the partisanship and bickering and lead the Senate to get things done. But lying in wait, not for Dole but to advance his own Democratic legislative agenda, was Kennedy. For several months the presidential campaign of 1996 was between Bob Dole as majority leader of the Republicans in the Senate and Ted Kennedy as de facto quarterback for a Democratic agenda that just a few short months before no one thought was possible.”

Nov. 10

A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction

Blue Rider Press

By Patrick J. Kennedy and Stephen Fried

“I grew up among people who were geniuses at not talking about things. When I was a teenager going for therapy during my parents’ divorce, I wouldn’t tell my psychiatrist the truth because I wasn’t sure I could trust him to keep things private. Then one day I walked into a bookstore and browsed the ‘Kennedy section’ and saw that many of the books included the ‘family secrets’ I had refused to discuss. But I still wouldn’t talk about them.”

Oct. 5

RFK Jr.: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Dark Side of the Dream

St. Martin's Press

By Jerry Oppenheimer

“In the beginning, the Kennedys had high hopes for Bobby, that he would be their new symbol after the assassinations of his father and uncle, that he would invigorate the Camelot myth, that he would be the so-called Royal family’s shining representative.

It never happened.

As his story shows, he became the end, rather than the fulfillment, of the dream.”

Sept. 22

PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy

William Morrow

By William Doyle

“The ordeal shaped Kennedy’s view of the world and of himself, and established a touchstone by which his character would be defined for the rest of his life. ‘Everything’ about JFK, wrote journalist Robert T. Hartmann in 1960 of Kennedy’s PT 109 experience, ‘dates from that adventure,’ ‘the only time Kennedy ever was wholly on his own, where the $1 million his father gave him wouldn’t buy one cup of water.’ Kennedy’s mettle and leadership had been proven, and yet his brush with death marked him. The tragic episode haunted Kennedy, and triggered the little-known story of his 1951 journey to American-occupied Tokyo to try to find the Japanese man who had nearly killed him, and who did take the lives of two men in his command. But when he got to Japan, disaster stalked Kennedy, and he was once again thrown upon the gates of death.”

Oct. 6

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