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The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,825 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
"A Fresh And Unvarnished Portrait Of A Fascinating, Talented, And Deeply Flawed Family."—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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BAM The Bibliomaniac
Nothing is as touching as the paragraph detailing the acceptance of Rosemary by her brothers, who chaperoned her dances so she was able to waltz like her classmates. They made her laugh, they made her appear "not different at all." If to the outside world, the Kennedys are clannish, to themselves they are a brood full of love and understanding. Joe, Sr. is a selfish, egotistical monster. Poor Rosemary, poor, poor dear.
Really the more I read the more I want to say that about all of the children.
Anna Makinen
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bio-historical
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
Aug 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book--I feel like I just got started reading more historical non-fiction and this one really was a great first one to get me started. What an amazing/interesting family--it really makes me want to read more about any other good Kennedy books out there
Feb 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
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
Joan Colby
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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.
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 52-books-in-2013
One of the best books I have ever read. Wonderfully written & I could not put it down! I thought it would take me ages because it's about as thick as the Bible, but I tore through it. It's seemingly politically neutral, which I was hoping for since I just wanted to read more about the family from an unbiased source. I highly recommend this!
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs, people who like to read
There is something intriguing about the Kennedy family, and reading about their ups and downs from the perspective of the women is fascinating. I have no particular interest in the Kennedys, in U.S. history, or anything specific about this book other than the simple fact that it is a book -- and it is extremely well-written.
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is ONE OF THE MOST ADDICTIVE books I've ever read!!!!! This not only reads like a novel, but you will laugh, cry, and scream at the women in this book just like you would in a regular novel. It's over 800 pages, but I immediately wanted to reread it once I was done.
Cyndie Todd
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history fans, feminists
There are so many lessons and elements and anecdotes of this story that have stayed with me over the years, it has truly influenced me as a person. It can be maddening, but it is worth it for the understanding of the dynamics and culture of this highly influential family.
Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book that goes right back the the mid nineteenth century to the early 1990's. Unlike a lot of books on the Kennedy's it neither glosses over bad thing or forgets the good. A fasinating read about the women who's lives were overshadowed by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons.
Sep 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Emily
I just found it fascinating to look more closely at the lives of these iconic women. Turns out they are just regular people with the same insecurities, sensitivities, and failings that we all have.
Shawn Thrasher
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
A big, juicy "history" of everything Kennedy. The Kennedy saga, epic, soap opera, melodrama - told through the eyes of the Kennedy women. I'm glad my mother wasn't Rose Kennedy (although maybe if she had been Rose Kennedy, I would be president right now).
Bobbie Rathjens
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I'm always hesitant about books that claim to give an in-depth look at famous people the author doesn't actually know, but I thought Leamer did a pretty good job.
Carol Ann
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
This would have been a shorter book if there had been fewer Kennedy women. Just lucky they did not include all the other women that were involved with the Kennedy men!

Mar 24, 2008 rated it liked it
good summer read at the lake
Jul 20, 2007 rated it liked it
Very in-depth look at the women of America's version of the royal family.
Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
When my grandfather passed, I inherited his collection of Kennedy books (about 10 in all). I had already read quite a few at that point. This was my favorite out of all I had inherited.
May 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
FASCINATING! I had no idea how flawed the Kennedy family (including John F.) was. Shocking, disturbing, and insightful on how dangerous fame, expectations and public identity are.
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Laurence Leamer is an award winning journalist and historian who has written fifteen 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 and an off Broadway play but is primarily known for his nonfiction. His new book, The Lynchi ...more
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