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The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  1,463 ratings  ·  84 reviews
—Boston Herald

Laurence Leamer was granted unheralded access to private Kennedy papers, and he interviewed family and old friends, many of whom had never been interviewed before, for this incredible portrait of the women in America’s "royal family." From Bridget Murphy, the foremother wh
Paperback, 960 pages
Published September 29th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published August 2nd 1994)
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Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint HillJackie, Ethel, Joan by J. Randy TaraborrelliThe Kennedy Women by Laurence LeamerRobert Kennedy by Evan ThomasBrothers by David Talbot
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Anna Makinen
This was my long summer vacation read. I felt intimidated by the length of the book at first. Unnecessarily. The book is fascinating, lengthy - yes,full of minutiae details - yes, but they all build up the story. To me the book is full of life, emotions, drama - highly entertaining and at the same time also informative. The book tells the story of the Kennedys through their women. As a mother I found fascinating to follow the gradual construction of Rose Kennedy’s persona as a mother. However, d ...more
Jill Kemerer
In depth, massive book about the Kennedy woman. I really enjoyed the background into Bridget Kennedy, the matriarch who came from Ireland during the mid-1800's and worked her way from nothing to a business owner. A large portion is devoted to Rose, but I found her daughters to be more interesting.

Eunice, Pat and Jean in particular, is written about with depth and honesty. Out of the daughters'-in-law, only Joan got much script time. I would have really liked a more honest and detailed look at J
Based on five years of research, and with unprecedented cooperation from Kennedy family and associates, Laurence Leamer paints startling, in-depth portraits of the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters who struggled to build and maintain the Kennedy dynasty—from steerage on an immigrant vessel to the slums of Boston, from the court of St. James to the White House.

*****Rate this 5/5. The years of research paid off because this book was so well-written and thorough. One always hears of the Kenned
Joan Colby
An exhaustive study of the Kennedy family with focus on the women, starting with Bridget Murphy, an immigrant who married P.J. Kennedy through the grandchildren of the matriarch Rose. Rose is the most interesting subject of this book which was written in 1996, prior to her death. Her rigid compulsive nature is frightening in a mother of nine children, all of whom responded in various ways to their upbringing. The father, Joe, was more beloved, though he too was both a martinet and a libertine. T ...more
Very thorough, though somewhat repetitive, look at five generations of the Kennedy family, focusing on the women. Rose gets the most attention, though quite a bit is also given about JFK's sisters, wife, and sisters-in-law, as well as grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and children, nieces and nephews. The book is nearly 800 pages of text, plus 100 pages of citations and indices. Philandering husbands is a major theme--don't think any of the men were faithful, except possibly Sargent Shriver, and ...more
This is one of the best books I've read on any Kennedy. I have always been fascinated with the family and how especially the women have endured the politics, the affairs, etc. This is a true insight into the foundation that was laid with the first Kennedy woman who opened her own business to support her family. It really depicts Rose's spiritual faith and how it pushed her to do what she believed was best for her family as a whole and those generations that would follow.
Terri Miles
I love biographies.. most biographies. I am interested in this family so I really wanted to read this. I learned alot about the faith people have in their religion. I learned how women were treated in certain era's and families. It was very interesting. There wasn't a part that I wanted to skip or that I thought would drag on. I think back on things I read in this book every now and then.
Vivian LeMay
Read this book over ten years ago and remember it well. From the day in 1821 when Bridget Murphy, the true Kennedy matriarch, is born in Ireland, to Rose Kennedy's 100th birthday in 1990, this book covers plenty of history.

Whenever there is a news story about the Kennedy family, I think of this book.
Bobbie Rathjens
This is one of the first books I read on the Kennedy's an I often go back to its worn pages and torn cover. The reason why I go back is because it's excellently written and chock full of information that you can't find elsewhere. Great read.
Sarah Beth
"These Kennedys were the most generous and philanthropic of people and the most niggardly and selfish. They were the most outgoing and gregarious and the most withdrawn and insular. They were the most spiritual and yet full of the most worldly cynicism. In the Kennedys these did not seem like contradictions, but integrated on some high plane that only they could understand" (432).

My interest in reading this family biography on the Kennedy women really sprang out of my enthusiasm for HBO's docum
Kathleen Kelly
The Kennedy Women by Laurence Leamer

I finally finished it, took me almost a month to read, not because it was a hard book to read, just the opposite. It was a very good book, just its size was a drawback for me. So I settled that by sitting on the deck and reading at the table.

Description from,
Laurence Leamer was granted unheralded access to private Kennedy papers, and he interviewed family and old friends, many of whom have never been interviewed before, for this incredible portrait
This book reminds me of why I became a non-practicing Catholic.

Laurence Leamer uses previously written source material and personal interviews to trace the lives of all of the women who, either by blood or through marriage, became part of the Kennedy legacy. He starts by chronicling the lives of the great-grandparents of the generation that attained the White House in the 1960s and continues on through the descendants of the 1990s.

Since Kennedy women were usually raised to consider the ambition
I found this book to be pretty great. It was chock full of information of both historical significance and also such tawdriness that, at times, it read like an issue of US Weekly.

While the title focuses on the women, I think that one could learn a lot about the men in the Kennedy family as well. After finishing this, I am not sure that I would necessarily need to read The Kennedy Men given the attention that is devoted to them as well; however, the information about the men is generally present
I thought I knew just about everything Kennedy but the book had interesting insights. I knew nothing about Vicki. The format was concise and readable. It was a relatively fast read for the length of the book. (800+ pages). Each woman depicted was so different but they were all driven by the Kennedy determination and faith.
I read "The Kennedy Men" so just had to get this one. An extremely interesting read. I especially enjoyed the early history. The book does become hard to get through in certain different places but I guess that's difficult to avoid in something this long-800 pages. I got tired of Kathleen Kennedy's debutante days pretty quickly and the ending sort of dragged,but no other real complaints.I would like to know ,however,why there was no mention of Josie Hannan Fitzgerald's death? Seeing as she was R ...more
Pam Ferderbar
I did not expect to find the most glorious and lush prose in a biography of the Kennedy women, but there it is. The story itself is utterly fascinating, but the writing makes it a super fantastic read. You won't be able to put it down.
I am not going to lie, I actually did not finish reading this book. However, I did make it to about page 250 and I have the intentions of finishing it once it becomes available at the Palatine Public Library again. They only let you re-new a book twice and I had already done that. Perhaps one of my book club friends will loan me their copy at some point. From what I have read so far, I really liked this book. All the reviews that we read before choosing it for book club were accurate. It does no ...more
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Aug 14, 2015 B L added it
Excellent information that gives insight and understanding to not only the Kennedy women, but also the Kennedy family and the family dynamics.
This is a very well researched book about the Kennedy women and their influences and lives, both the ones born as Kennedys and the ones who married into the family. I learned a lot about the family and what caused them to be a product of their environment. Unfortunately, I had admired many of the Kennedy, both men and women, more before I read about them than after. While I understand they were a product of their environment, many of them made bad choices that I cannot admire.
Warning - this is a
This is an excellent biography of the Kennedy women, from Bridget Murphy who came to the US in the 1840's up to the book's publication in 1994. Obviously, a lot has happened to the Kennedy family since this book was published, but Leamer does a very thorough job of portraying the lives of the women up to that point. I was especially interested in learning about Kathleen, as she is not as well-known today. Leamer does a great job of showing how the Kennedy women were dramatically affected by soci ...more
I bought this when it first came out, which is unusual for me, but I had some extra B-day money and I'd already read "The Kennedy's and the Fitzgerald's" and was quite fascinated with the whole Kennedy thing. Plus, I'd just give birth to my first and only daughter and thought that buying this book would be appropriate somehow, gender-wise.

I recall that it was quite well-researched, well-written, and that it didn't disappoint. There was some interesting info regarding the relationships between th
Dec 27, 2008 Erica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Kennedy/political enthusiasts
Everyone knows about JFK, RFK, Teddy, and even Joe Kennedy. But few stories are told about the women, especially Kathleen and Rosemary. This book was a breath of fresh air and gave a lot of insight and analysis about the Kennedy women. It goes into great detail, especially about Rosemary's lobotomy, Kathleen's life. It discusses the triumphs, the trials, and how every member of the family helped or hurt their cause as they attempted to become America's foremost political dynasty. It is the first ...more
Brilliant writing and a fascinating family. This is a story of corrupt, hypocritical and sexist men, religion and society as well as self-denying and delusional women about those men and their religion. The facade of the loving, healthy and happy Catholic family didn't take long to come tumbling down to show the truth of unhappiness and loneliness.

They may have achieved a lot politically but paid a heavy price. None of them appealed to me at all. Surely a lesson from this family story is that po
Absolutely fascinating book about what it is like to be female and Kennedy. I was especially captivated by the story of Rosemary, whose mental disability was seen as such a liability to the family, that her father had her lobotomized and institutionalized without once consulting her mother.

The power that is is illustrated in these woman's lives (and it isn't their own power, for the most part) is truly frightening.
I had a Ta Da moment last night in finishing The Kennedy Women - all 796 pages. Why have I balked at the length when I have Stephen King's 1100 pager on deck as well?

I believe Leamer did a good job in portraying the Kennedy family in a fair way. It is interesting to see them in the light of the eras they were living.

This is our January book club selection and I can see quite a good discussion coming up.
Nov 29, 2007 Graceann rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Biography Fans
Shelves: biography
A multiple biography of the ladies who made and make the Kennedy clan as successful as it has become. The mothers, sisters, wives and daughters of the men who led the country (or tried to). Special attention is paid to Rose and of course to Jackie, Ethel and Joan, but other important Kennedy women are discussed at length, as well. This is a meaty book and meticulously researched.
I loved reading about the Kennedy women as much as the Kennedy men. What a fascinating family! The women put up with a lot for the sake of marriage and family. It was nice to read about the good that the younger Kennedy women has and are doing. I wish that the media would report more of the positive impacts that the Kennedy's have had on our nation rather than the negative.
Jul 19, 2008 Patty rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History lovers
Recommended to Patty by: Book Club
Shelves: biography
I found this most fascinating because it begins with Bridget Murphy born in 1821, became an immigrant in the bowels of a ship, married Patrick Kennedy and history was born. This book follows the WOMEN of the Kennedy clan, all the way through Rose to Jacquie. You might not believe in the same politics, but the tenacity of all these women will captivate you.
Leamer is a fantastic writer--easily the best Kennedy book I have read.
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Laurence Leamer has written fourteen books including five New York Times bestsellers. He has worked in a factory in France, a coal mine in West Virginia and as a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote village in Nepal two days from a road. He has written one novel but is primarily known for his nonfiction, especially a trilogy on the Kennedys. His new book, The Price of Justice, is the story of two Pit ...more
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