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Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch Hardcover – July 15, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First edition (July 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393068951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393068955
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Laudable…Perry employs a newly released trove of diaries and letters to add nuance and detail to an essentially familiar story.” (Julia M. Klein - Boston Globe)

“A fuller picture than ever before…Perry writes with compassion and brings keen insight into what Rose Kennedy’s own words tell us about this complex woman.” (Amy Scribner - Book Page)

“An insightful portrait of this paradoxical woman…[Kennedy] gave the public every reason to love her.” (People)

“Barbara Perry has done it again! Rose Kennedy is the much needed, balanced biography of the grand matriarch of American politics. Whether it was helping the disabled, raising children, or playing ward boss, Mrs. Kennedy was a force of nature.” (Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of Cronkite)

“Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was one of the most inspiring women of the twentieth century. Everyone knows her as the mother of President Kennedy, but her story is far richer—one for the ages. Barbara Perry brilliantly and sensitively shows us Rose’s world, filled with almost unimaginable privilege yet scarred by terrible tragedies that would have been unbearable for most. You will be deeply moved by Perry’s magnificently researched account of this remarkable centenarian, whose steely optimism and unshakeable religious faith overcame life’s darkest detours.” (Larry J. Sabato, Director, University of Virginia Center for Politics)

“Perry’s biography is a finely crafted, comprehensive account of one of the most driven women in the shadows of American political history…While there are untold numbers of books on the Kennedys, Perry adds archival details and nuance to our understanding of Rose. Kennedy completists and novices alike are sure to find the book fascinating as it further reveals the perspective of the strong woman behind the dynasty.” (Lisa Guardarini - Library Journal)

“Perry has created an insightful portrait of this paradoxical woman.” (Helen Rogan - People)

About the Author

Barbara A. Perry, a well-known authority on the Kennedys, is a Senior Fellow in the Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. As part of her extensive research on the American presidency, she interviews prominent members of previous administrations. She is the author of Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier, among other works, and lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Customer Reviews

Instead it's just facts.
Flows well, not too much h unnecessary detail - an easy and interesting read!
Barbara Perry has written a lively biography of Rose Kennedy.
Jill Meyer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By bruno on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Barbara Perry, the University of Virginia professor and Kennedy chronicler who earlier profiled the President's wife does even better this time around in examining the life of Rose, JFK's indomitable but flawed mother. This Boston doyenne, daughter of political privilege and wife of ambitiously wealthy and powerful Joseph Kennedy, is usually portrayed as something of a devout recluse, churning out children and making sure they did their lessons and said their prayers while father Joe flicked them with his intellectual and political lash at the nightly dinner table. But Perry shows there was much more to Rose's story, not all of it flattering. This was a feisty matriarch who constantly hovered over her children, pushing and prodding (to JFK's annoyance)to elicit perfection or at least the picture of perfection, while at the same time satiating her near-addiction to shopping and the European haut monde. Vanity and self-indulgence take their places alongside nurturing and politicking in Perry's exhaustive and well-documented book, which shines from Perry's use of Rose's hitherto unreleased private files. This is a must-read for Kennedy fans as well as for those with an interest in the political times and processes that engendered the Kennedy family dynasty.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent biography is one that - along with giving you clearly written information - gives very little glimpse of the author's personal opinion of the subject. Barbara Perry's new biography, "Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch" is a straightforward look at Rose Kennedy and her life and her influence on the people around her.

I think most people reading this review have the basic outline of Rose's life pretty well fixed. Born in 1890 to an up-and-coming Irish-American politician in Boston and his wife, she died at the age of 104, having buried four of her nine children and having lived through two world wars and a financial depression as well as other personal upheavals. Rose was the loving/enabling wife of a charismatic man who treated her financially better than he treated her emotionally. She was also the mother/matriarch of one of the most important American political dynasties. She was also a staunch Catholic, whose devotion to her faith helped her through the rough times in her life. But who was she?

Perry's biography of Rose Kennedy makes the point in ways both subtle and direct that Rose Kennedy was a loner. Despite having nine children and overseeing their lives in the most minute fashion and also being the wife of an intensely political man, Rose liked to spend time by herself. A lot of time by herself. Although she bragged about bringing up nine children, a lot of her time was spent traveling to Europe where she shopped and went siteseeing. The children, when she was home, were strictly supervised for school lessons, the observances of faith, and social rituals so important to her. Good dental hygiene was particularly stressed, as was keeping one's body thin.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
America does not have a royal family, but if it did, no doubt it would be the Kennedys. And Rose would be the center of that large, powerful family.

Rose Kennedy was the eldest of six children born into a strict Irish Catholic family. Her father, nicknamed Honey Fitz, lived and breathed politics. Because her mother preferred to remain at home, as a child Rose accompanied her father to political events and acted as his hostess in later years. Rose attended convent boarding schools and received a strict religious upbringing. Detail oriented, organized, and a perfectionist, she had a mind of her own and balked over her parents' choice of a mate. Instead she followed her heart and married a young and ambitious Irish Catholic: Joe Kennedy, the son of her father's political rival.

When Joe and Rose married, they immediately hired household help, which meant she never had to wash a dish. Even though she had nine children, Rose bragged that she never changed a diaper. She loved her brood but often found the need to escape her noisy, active family. So she had a private beach house built for her and often went there to swim, nap, or read, enjoying the quiet and privacy she needed. Rose taught the children manners, grooming and decorum, and even quizzed them on geography and current events at meal times. She had very high standards, and when one of them broke a rule, the child was promptly punished. She was also extremely religious and turned to her faith in times of loss as well as moments of great joy.

The children were intelligent, capable and active, with the exception of Rosemary, whose behavior and educational skills were well below normal. Joe and Rose had grand ambitions for their offspring. Joe encouraged all his sons to enter politics.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By royfish on July 31, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Too much time was spent on all the dresses, elaborate dinners, name dropping of royalty, etc. I did enjoy Rose's insights on members of her family and what was happening in the world at that time. I was not aware of Rose's close friendship with Pope Pius XII. I knew the Kennedys had wealth, but in rankings of the wealthy in the '30s - '50s, it was like 1st it was the Kennedys and then God. I was pleased to learn how much Rose and Joe did financially in establishing schools, hospitals, training centers for young people with disabilities. I would like to have seen more of Rose's take on the philandering and under the table business deals of Joe, Sr., however as the matriarch she was and with the morals she seemed to possess, I'm not sure she would have lowered herself to discuss this. The book was about Rose, and it does a decent job of that.
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More About the Author

I used to tease my dear mother that she turned me into a political scientist at the tender age of four! In October 1960 she loaded me and my two older brothers into our '56 Chevy for a trip to downtown Louisville, Kentucky, to attend a presidential campaign rally and see her new political hero--Senator John F. Kennedy. We arrived early and stood right in front of the podium where the handsome candidate spoke and reached over to shake my brother's hand. I was hooked! From that point on, I adored politics and began a life-long fascination with the Kennedy clan. On family vacations, I would urge my parents to stop at all the historic sights and memorials dedicated to JFK and his family. From Boston, to Hyannis Port, to Palm Beach, to Georgetown, to Arlington Cemetery, we made the pilgrimage.

On a high school field trip to Washington, D.C., I sat outside the White House and vowed to my mother that someday I would come back to work in the nation's capital. I did--from internships to fellowships--in all three branches of government. With a master's degree from Oxford and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, I became a specialist on the presidency, the Supreme Court, and, of course, the Kennedys. In addition to serving as a Supreme Court Fellow, I have produced five books on the justices, appointments, and civil rights and liberties. My book on First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy continues to prompt media inquiries, especially comparing Mrs. Obama to "Jackie O." I have completed a biography of Rose Kennedy, based on her recently released papers at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston and a collection of her letters that I have acquired. It is gratifying to know that Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch has been recommended by the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Vanity Fair.

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