The prolific celebrity biographer delivers another Kennedy family saga, this time focusing on the 29 individuals comprising the “third generation” of the famed clan.
In this sprawling post-Camelot account, Taraborrelli (Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill, 2018, etc.) details the lives of the third generation—the grandchildren of Joe and Rose Kennedy—as they have tried to live up to Kennedy values (honor, family, loyalty) while failing to cope with the murders of John F. (1963) and Bobby (1968). Growing up in families that never discussed the assassinations among themselves and offered few healing mechanisms to their children, the young heirs often self-medicated with alcohol and drugs. Innumerable infidelities, confrontations, and divorces run through this soap opera, which teems with intimate views of angry, heavy-drinking matriarch Ethel, mother of Bobby’s 11 children; Ted, who kept the family together, and his wife, Joan, both “unpredictable, alcoholic parents”; and the smiling, seemingly happy children, who struggled inside, some wanting “anything other than to be Kennedys.” Taraborrelli rehashes Bobby’s son Michael’s affair with a 16-year-old babysitter; the murder conviction of Ethel’s nephew Michael Skakel; David Kennedy’s death by cocaine overdose; JFK Jr.’s death in a plane crash, and so on. “Terrible things have happened to the Kennedys,” writes the author, “sometimes by fate and circumstance, sometimes by their own volition.” Taraborrelli’s depictions of Caroline’s therapy as a child and the family’s expectation that Bobby Jr., who made drug runs to Harlem, would run for president, are unsettling. All of this is recounted against the glitz, wealth, and historical role of the family, the ever present paparazzi, the family pressure to excel, and the children’s careers in politics and other fields. No scandal or luxurious dining room goes overlooked.
A doorstop of a melodrama. Kennedy die-hards will love it.