The domestic side of Camelot in words and pictures—familiar fare—from presidential historian Anthony (Florence Harding, 1998, etc.).
No presidency has received greater scrutiny than Kennedy’s, and here, Anthony continues the tradition, this time with special emphasis on family life. Beginning with Kennedy’s inauguration and moving in rough chronological order through his abbreviated regime, Anthony regales with vignettes aimed at situating the First Family in the culture of the time and illuminating their individual personalities. He takes particular care to evoke the atmosphere of the early ’60s and to examine the Kennedys’ significance as the original celebrity First Couple of the Media Age. While not ignoring the reputed darker side of the administration, the author still treats his subjects with a notable degree of sympathy. He highlights not only the president’s charm but also his problematic relationship with his father. But his particular sympathy is reserved for Jackie, who not only had to deal with a faithless husband but with her own idealized public image as well. (Her attempts to protect the privacy of her children while the White House used the image of the young family as a political asset is well documented here.) As with any narrative of the domestic life of a family, the blow-by-blow accounts of particular events can make for pretty dull reading. The descriptions of the weather on inauguration day, Jackie’s decorating choices, and the First Families’ collective impact on fashion are likely to hold the attention of only the most star-struck of Kennedy admirers.
It’s been well-trod ground for the past 40 years, and this work will add little to the copious literature already out there.