Unpretentious profiles of Joseph Kennedy’s surviving sons and many grandsons in the post-JFK years.
Though aimed at a popular audience, this multigenerational portrait is hardly facile. Well-versed family chronicler Leamer (The Kennedy Men, 2001, etc.) knows when to call Robert Kennedy on mimicking the Port Huron Statement, and he has an intelligent thing or two to say about addiction and thrill-seeking. But here he writes a mostly narrative history, capturing the ongoing family split between those who endeavor to assume the mantle of power, assuming they belong to what may pass as a natural aristocracy, and those who shun the very same. Leamer tackles both Bobby and Ted as well as the 17 grandsons, some who shone and others who did otherwise. He covers the terrain like a reaper, from drugs and alcohol to the sad episode in Chappaquiddick (Leamer notes that Ted’s peccadilloes were typically of a different order: “He liked stunning, sexy women, and that was not Kopechne”), from the sanctuary at Hyannisport to the forays into the public domain of politics, the Special Olympics, and the evening news. There is much to cover: John’s travails at Brown, Willie Smith’s rape trial, all the rotten stuff “so bad it was perfect.” And Leamer is the perfect guide, so well-acquainted with the Kennedy mystique that he is just as comfortable talking about Teddy's self-doubting willful arrogance as he is with the clan’s lack of emotional expressiveness. The Kennedys and kin are a large brood, and the author brings each one before the limelight in a fashion that suggests they may well be in eclipse, coming full circle from shirtsleeves back to shirtsleeves as various members are swept away by airplanes, recreational intoxicants, and hubris.
Impeccable: Leamer never overreaches, delivering accessible and even insightful portraits of Camelot’s sons. (Two 16-page b&w photo inserts, not seen)