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THE HOUSE OF KENNEDY by James Patterson


by James Patterson and Cynthia Fagen

Pub Date: April 13th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-316-45448-3

Humdrum history of the Kennedy clan. Joseph Kennedy is reputed to have made some of his early fortune in bootlegging during Prohibition, a claim that scholars such as David Nasaw have painstakingly examined—and largely dismissed. Patterson and Fagen skip by the matter, though their book is chock full of other salacious and lurid moments. What is certain is that the patriarch himself wasn’t sure how much he was worth, protesting to his wife, “How could I tell you, when I didn’t know myself?” It’s possible he was shielding the figures for dark reasons, but not divorce. The Kennedys were devout Catholics, and even when Joseph, as a film studio executive, tried to convince his sometime lover Gloria Swanson to have a baby with him, he could be sure that his home life wouldn’t be disrupted. Not so the next generation. The central conceit of the book is that there really is something to what Ted Kennedy once wondered aloud—whether “a curse actually did hang over all the Kennedys,” à la the House of Atreus. Considering what happened—assassinations, accidental deaths, all sorts of misadventures and legal scrapes, and lashings of hubris—Ted’s remark has weight, even if, as the authors breathlessly report, he got caught up in a cheating scandal that put him two years behind in school. There’s not much of serious note that other biographers and historians haven’t addressed, and much better, and the authors’ intent often seems to be simply to shame their subjects: “ ‘Kennedys don’t fail,’ his uncle Ted tells him. Yet David has failed sobriety over and over.” “Trust me, that one is all smoke and mirrors,” says Ethel Kennedy of Carolyn Bessette. And so on—and on and on. A tabloid-worthy approach to a subject that has filled many shelves with more substantial works.