Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: The Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy by Jean Kennedy Smith

Title: The Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy
Author: Jean Kennedy Smith
Published: December 2018, Harper Perennial
Format: Paperback, 272 pages
Source: Personal copy

In this evocative and affectionate memoir, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, the last surviving child of Joe and Rose Kennedy, offers an intimate and illuminating look at a time long ago when she and her siblings, guided by their parents, laughed and learned a great deal under one roof.

Prompted by interesting tidbits in the newspaper, Rose and Joe Kennedy would pose questions to their nine children at the dinner table. "Where could Amelia Earhart have gone?" "How would you address this horrible drought?" "What would you do about the troop movements in Europe?" It was a nightly custom that helped shape the Kennedys into who they would become.

Before Joe and Rose’s children emerged as leaders on the world stage, they were a loving circle of brothers and sisters who played football, swam, read, and pursued their interests. They were children inspired by parents who instilled in them a strong work ethic, deep love of country, and intense appreciation for the sacrifices their ancestors made to come to America."No whining in this house!" was their father’s regular refrain. It was his way of reminding them not to complain, to be grateful for what they had, and to give back.

In her remarkable memoir, Kennedy Smith—the last surviving sibling—revisits this singular time in their lives. Filled with fascinating anecdotes and vignettes, and illustrated with dozens of family pictures, The Nine of Us vividly depicts this large, close-knit family during a different time in American history. Kennedy Smith offers indelible, elegantly rendered portraits of her larger-than-life siblings and her parents. "They knew how to cure our hurts, bind our wounds, listen to our woes, and help us enjoy life," she writes. "We were lucky children indeed."

My thoughts: If you know anything about me, you know I have a deep fascination with all things Kennedy. I was ecstatic when I came across this book at the bookstore one day while browsing the nonfiction section. I am always looking for new books on the Kennedy clan to add to my Kennedy collection - and while I have not read all the books I own, I am determined to read them one day.

I decided to pick this one up and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It isn't a tell-all about the family, but rather a look back about what her family meant to her and how important family life was to her parents. It contains vignettes of growing up in her large family and is filled with pictures. I loved getting to live in Jean's life as a Kennedy kid - she made it seemed like she had such a regular childhood and perhaps to her, that's the way it felt, but that was because her parents worked hard to make it that way. 

I loved that she went through the whole family in this small book - her grandparents, her parents and each of her siblings - and while she focused on some more than others, I felt like I got to know them all a little better and now I am even more determined to start digging into my other books - some that are quite meatier and denser than this one, for sure. But this was a great one to start with and I enjoyed every bit that she wrote. 

This family definitely lived its life in the spotlight, but I think credit goes the Joe and Rose Kennedy for giving the Kennedy children a childhood they truly deserved and this book shows that. The world has changed, life has changed, but values are still values and one thing that is quite evident is that Joe and Rose Kennedy felt it important to instill certain values in their children and they did it their own way. 

I recommend this book not only to all Kennedy fans, but also to anyone raising a family today. It's a quick read that really provides a lot of food for thought.


1 comment

  1. I've been a little hesitant about picking up any Kennedy biographies because I've read a few that were way too much detail - as in I don't care what they had for breakfast every Tuesday kind of detail - but this sounds really interesting and sweet. I'll have to add this to my TBR. Like you I've always found the Kennedy family fascinating.


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