In-depth coverage of one Kennedy daughter who never gained the spotlight like her siblings.
Born the third child to Joseph and Rose Kennedy, Rosemary was slower to develop mentally than her siblings, thanks to an unnecessarily prolonged birth. Throughout her early childhood and adolescence, her mental disabilities were kept hidden from the press and those outside the family, enabling Rosemary to attend prestigious private schools, to be presented to the king and queen of England, and to enjoy a life full of social events. However, as she entered her early 20s, her inability to function like others her age and her unruly behavior presented increasing difficulties for her family, all of whom were in the limelight in one form or another. In order to suppress Rosemary’s mental health issues, her father ordered her to undergo a prefrontal lobotomy, an experimental operation at the time that had little conclusive evidence of its effectiveness. The results were drastic and completely damaging. Larson does an excellent job of portraying the Kennedy family, providing ample background on the political and economic rise of Joe Sr., the obsessions with weight and the need for solitude of Rose, the role the parents played in Rosemary’s life and the effect this had on her, and the interactions among Rosemary and her siblings. The author presents a well-rounded portrait of Rosemary before the lobotomy, a beautiful young woman full of spunk and love, and the destruction of that vibrant person as a result of the operation. Larson goes on to discuss how Rosemary’s younger sister, Eunice, used the family’s considerable wealth to fund research and services for the mentally disabled, a cause she avidly supported because of her sister.
A well-researched, entertaining, and illuminating biography that should take pride of place over another recent Rosemary bio, Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff’s The Missing Kennedy.