"THE OTHER MRS. KENNEDY: Ethel Skakel Kennedy: An American Drama of Power, Privilege, and Politics" by Jerry Oppenheimer

"THE OTHER MRS. KENNEDY: Ethel Skakel Kennedy: An American Drama of Power, Privilege, and Politics"

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Yet another Kennedy bio from the school of journalism that mistakes an avalanche of minutiae for the thoughtful examination of a life. No irrelevant detail -- from the length of her skirts to the thank-you notes she sent her dressmaker -- escapes examination in this account of Ethel Kennedy's life. If Oppenheimer (Barbara Walters, 1990, etc.) has a point of view, it seems to be that being rich and famous is hell, and it is hell squared if you're both a Skakel and a Kennedy. A brief review of Ethel's ancestors takes the reader back to Yazoo County, Miss., and her great-grandfather, who was one of 11 children. Ethel herself was one of seven in an unruly tribe, wealthy and privileged but undisciplined. Her brothers terrorized Greenwich, Conn., with their antics, as some of Ethel's 11 children would later terrorize Hyannis Port, Mass., and Hickory Hill, Va. The young Ethel was nevertheless a good fit for the Kennedy family. Athletic, schooled by the nuns of the Sacred Heart (as were Rose and her daughters) to give husband and children priority in life, she was an exuberant, extroverted complement to the sometimes melancholy Robert F. Kennedy. She also bravely faced tragic loss -- her parents, her brother, her brother-in-law, her husband, a son. But she was a notorious penny-pincher, could be vindictive and unreasonably demanding, and was given to rages after Bobby's assassination. That her flaws and her family scandals overshadow her virtues and accomplishments make this unrewarding reading. Arranging index cards in the right order does not make for enlightening biography. With her children leading relatively useful lives and with a personal history of philanthropic activism, Ethel deserves better.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1994
Page count: 521pp
Publisher: St. Martin's