Book Review: The Kennedy Wives by Amber Hunt and David Batcher
Since I'm young enough that I missed out on the Kennedy craze of the sixties and seventies, and even the second mini-craze of the late nineties, I was very excited to have an opportunity to read The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in American's Most Public Family. I honestly found the book to be fascinating--for multiple reasons.
First, I'll tell you what I thought about the writing. This book is broken into five parts, each one telling the tale of one of the women who married a famous Kennedy. The books begins with Rose, the Kennedy matriarch, and follows with Ethel, Jackie, Joan and Vickie. Before reading this book, I only knew the name of one of these women--Jacqueline Kennedy, of course. The first thing you should know about The Kennedy Wives is that it is absolutely a book about the women and not their famous husbands and/or sons. The stories of philandering, politics, campaigns, births, miscarriages, money and assassinations are only told as how they affected each woman. Obviously the Kennedy men play great roles in the stories, but these are the stories of the wives and how they reacted and responded to their husbands' time in the spotlight, both good and bad. The second thing you should understand is that even though this book could very easily be repetitive, it is not. Each woman's story is her own. Even though Rose, Ethel, Jackie and Joan were all affected by and involved in John F. Kennedy's assassination, the story of it is only told once, in Jackie's part of the book. Even though it is mentioned in each woman's story, (except Vickie) it is only used to describe each woman's reaction to the event. I was very impressed with the writers' ability to separate each woman into her own story. Another thing I admired about these authors' was how they just wrote what happened. People seem to have an idea that the Kennedys lived some kind of magical "Camelot" lifestyle, but Ms. Hunt and Mr. Bratcher have shattered that illusion in this book. Bu they did it with respect and dignity by simply saying, "They wanted you to believe it was all perfect, but this is how it really was..."
My disappointment in this book lies not with the authors, nor the writing, but with the characters themselves. I was appalled to read how they were forced to sit by while their husbands' had multiple, public affairs, and they were unable to do anything about it because the Kennedys were rich and powerful. I honestly could not imagine being treated that way by my husband. Although they weren't perfect, these were (and some still are) amazing women, but each of their husbands took for granted what they had.
All in all The Kennedy Wives is a great book. I really learned a lot while reading it, and found myself unable to put it down. It's not very often I can say that about a historical account. I would recommend this book to those who remember the events that happened in the sixties and seventies, but also to those who, like me, really have no idea who things were then. I think this will be a real eye-opener to both groups.
I was given an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. Look for this book on sale on or around December 2, 2014.