45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2005
I picked up The Kennedy Curse by Edward Klein with much skepticism. The title, as well as the subject matter, suggested a book taken from the gossip pages of the newsstand rags. The early and rare Kennedy family photos on the cover and in the illustrated section of the book sparked my interested and I decided to give The Kennedy Curse a chance. There is plenty of gossip and sexually lurid details in this book, of course, but I was more struck by how well-written and researched it is. Klein covered JFK's 1960 political campaign and had interviewed many Kennedys through the decades and was a friend of Jacqueline Onassis for over a dozen years. Klein demonstrates more credibility than I expected and his writing style presents a book that is a joy to read and difficult to put down.
Klein clearly states the premise of his book: "The Kennedy Curse is the result of the destructive collision between the Kennedys' fantasy of omnipotence-their need to get away with things that others cannot-and the cold, hard realities of life" (p. 23). According to Klein, this "curse" stemming from some narcissistic, thrill-seeking gene originated several generations up the Kennedy family tree. He begins his book with a chapter on Patrick Kennedy (JFK's great grandfather) who arrived in America from the famine-stricken Ireland in 1849. On the other side of the family, Klein next covers John Francis Fitzgerald "Honey Fitz" (JFK's grandfather) who was an ambitious politician and mayor of Boston. The other chapters cover Joseph P. Kennedy, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, JFK, William Kennedy Smith, and JFK Jr. Klein focuses on the most controversial aspects of the lives he examines. Joseph P. Kennedy's harshness and Nazi leanings are described (one error I found was that Klein referred to Hermann Goering as Hitler's propaganda minister when, of course, it was actually Josef Goebbels, p. 111). Kathleen is painted in a little more positive light but is still shown as a conniving social climber out to get the Marquess of Hartington and, later, a married man. The sexual exploits of JFK and William Kennedy Smith are described in sordid detail (the 17-page chapter on JFK is almost completely on his sexual conquests while in office). Ted Kennedy appears as a dirty old man in the Smith chapter. The friction between JFK Jr. and Jackie O and, especially, the drug problems and emotional outbursts of wife Carolyn Bassette are the focus of the final chapter as well as the introduction. In fact, Bassette is painted in the worst light of all.
As well-written and interesting as this book is, the weaknesses are clear. There is no chapter on Chappaquiddick (only a few mentions) and hardly anything on RFK and his assassination. These two events probably sparked the idea of a "curse" more than anything else save, perhaps, for JFK Jr.'s plane crash. I also do not think Klein drove the "curse" premise home. Klein tries to demonstrate that it is the narcissism in the Kennedy family that brings about their misfortunes. If JFK was not so lackadaisical in security, he would have been better protected in Dallas or may not have made the trip at all. If JFK Jr. was not so bent on risky behavior to prove his worth, he would not have flown in poor weather July 16, 1999 and so on. A "curse," to me, seems to suggest that the Kennedys have no control in their downfall and that their fate is predestined. But, a lot of the family tragedies stem from their choices. Klein would state that it is the "curse" that determines their poor, sometimes fatal, choices, but I do not buy that. Kennedy apologists will jump on the idea that William Kennedy Smith, Ted Kennedy, etc. cannot help their deviant behavior because it is a family "curse." Most high profile families have tragedies on a higher scale than most (i.e. the Gettys). The Kennedys command much more media attention than most powerful families, so their trials and tribulations are always front page news. When one is rich and powerful and can have anything one wants, the successes are great and so are the potential pitfalls. Klein, to me, does not prove there is a "curse," and he certainly does not demonstrate that it began with Patrick Kennedy (who died young of tuberculosis) and Honey Fitz who had troubled times as all people do but nothing to suggest an evil affliction had been set. Caroline Schlossberg seems to be doing well and I don't think it is because she is breaking a "curse," she just conducts herself with dignity and does not become reckless with power. Although style-wise the book is well-written and a breeze to read, content-wise I found it to be lacking and not backing up the premise Klein so vehemently states.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2003
Except that the author isn't Edward Klein.
During the media frenzy preceding the publication of "The Kennedy Curse", one of the book's most vociferous critics was Laurence Leamer, author of "The Kennedy Women" (1994) and "The Kennedy Men" (2001). Both of these majestic, exhaustive tomes are firmly housed in my collection, despite my complicated emotions regarding America's royal family. I have returned to these works again and again, largely due to the following unavoidable fact: Mr. Leamer is an excellent writer, eminently capable of enthralling the reader with vivid, evocative prose and memorable phrasing.
Conversely, Edward Klein doesn't pull off a similar feat - not with this latest work. First of all, the book is paltry: 225 pages. (Leamer's books are three times as voluminous - with a comparable list price.) Moreover, most of the so-called revelations are rehashings from earlier books. If you've read Doris Kearns Goodwin's "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedy's" and/or "The Kennedys: An American Drama" by Peter Collier and David Horowitz, you won't find much of significance here.
Leamer's works, however, remain my overwhelming favorite - and Klein's writings suffer dramatically by comparison. Forgive me, but you cannot compare "'You're a cokehead!' John said to Carolyn" with this treasure by Leamer in "The Kennedy Women": "Half a century later, the mere mention of Kathleen's name brought tears to the eyes of elderly men who once danced her across gleaming ballrooms, and wistful melancholic silences to women who so long ago shared evenings of laughter."
Leamer was referring, of course, to the brilliant, tragic Kathleen Kennedy, who perished at age 28 in a plane crash in 1948. Klein's writings of the doomed and charismatic Kennedy sister reveal nothing memorable except for the fact that she may not have loved her late husband, Billy Hartington, but may have been using him to advance her social standing. This lamentable possibility may indeed be based in truth, but Leamer does a far better job of presenting the famous family in all its faults and storied accomplishments, its crushing foibles and its stunning triumphs.
There's a reason why I've relegated "The Kennedy Curse" to the nether regions of my bookcase, while Leamer's works remain prominent - to be visited again and again through the years. Significantly, Klein has whetted my appetite for Leamer's next book - "The Kennedy Sons". I am eagerly awaiting its publication, and I'll likely be first in line to purchase it. In conclusion, here's two lessons to Klein and other authors: 1) Don't ever leave the reader feeling ripped off. 2) If you've diverted your public's fervid attention to another writer, you haven't done your job.
41 of 52 people found the following review helpful
"The Kennedy Curse: Why America's First Family Has Been Haunted by Tragedy for 150 Years" is a mewling, drippy tome of regurgitated material, alternately leering and worshiping the Kennedy family. It's hard to read this excruciating little book without feeling queasy.
The book traces the Kennedy family back to the immigrants escaping impoverished Ireland (a protracted and very dull chapter) to the assassination of JFK, to the death of JFK Jr. and his wife Carolyn. The genuinely tragic material (David Kennedy's psychological breakdown and drug OD, for example) is buried below more sentimental slop, the type of writing that perpetuated the Camelot myth in the first place.
New material isn't really to be found in this book; most of it can be found elsewhere. The only possible new material is his continuous negative coverage of Carolyn Bessette, whom Klein pours venom on continuously (even to the point of saying presumptuously what Jackie would have thought of her). The Kennedys themselves get off lightly; even Teddy and Joe are carefully whitewashed. Most of them aren't even dealt with; the book is surprisingly skinny, and most of the supposed tragedies Klein mentions are never really elaborated on.
Perhaps most absurd is Klein's desperate clinging to the myth of the "Kennedy Curse." Despite saying that they're narcissistic and thrillseeking, he claims that a supernatural curse is the only reason why the extended family could possibly have all these problems. Choosing to use cocaine, avoid basic safety measures, leave a girl in a submerged car, seduce the babysitter and ski backwards are not signs of a curse -- it's just recklessness, based on free choice. Why should I sympathize?
Many of the other deaths and problems are hardly unique -- alcoholism, cancer, strokes and various other problems. Sad, to be sure, but I doubt that if you counted all the relatives of ANY large family, that you would find anything different. He even claims the early death of immigrant Patrick Kennedy from tuberculosis must be the start of the "Kennedy curse." Again, far from unique.
Fans and foes of "America's first family" will find nothing new here, unless they happen to hate Carolyn Bessette. A literary bow-and-scrape, a drooling love letter to the Kennedy family in general, this book would serve a better existance as a paperweight.
60 of 78 people found the following review helpful
Ed Klein is a Pulitzer winning journalist, and author. He's been associated with the Kennedy family for decades, even covering the 1960 Presidential election. In this book he conducts great research, conducts interviews, and corroborates what he states. Some interesting insights are noted in this book and several living sources are cited. Obviously, we are aware of the fact that the people that are the subjects of this book by Ed Klein are deceased and no longer able to defend themselves nor more accurately depict these stories of what was, what wasn't, and what could have been.
...The media has eaten this up. Interestingly, the last time I checked, the divorce rate in the U.S. is over 1 out of 2 marriages dissolving. So what? Drug use? So what. Infidelity? So what. John Jr. and Carolyn weren't unusual, they were the norm. Young, living in Manhattan, and monied. Does the public expect this young couple to stay home and play scrabble, and read "Reader's Digest?" Not really, because then it wouldn't be a titillating tale to devour.
This book also sheds light on a possible run for New York Governor. Kennedy Jr. was hesitant because, the author claims, that his wife's drug use and their marriage difficulties would have brought forth skeletons in the closet that political campaigns bring about. This book is entitled "The Kennedy Curse," but it's major focus JFK Jr. and his wife, his potential political plans, and some private things that encourage interest among the public. Klein conducted interviews and corroborated several sources. This book is interesting, and it's not "tabloidish."
It is unfortunate that once again a member of this family has lost their life. Their appears to be two camps. Kennedys that die because of being the victim, and Kennedys that die because of risky adventurism. Joe Kennedy was shot down after volunteering for a dangerous mission when he didn't have to, to try to upstage his brother JFK's PT-109 myth of heroics. Another member died after deciding to throw footballs while snow skiing down-hill. Another overs dosed on drugs. A rape charge here, a murder conviction there. A car accident that leaves someone paralyzed--and in poverty. Sadly, JFK Jr. is the latest Kennedy to go. A lesson should be learned: don't fly planes at night if you are not qualified to fly by instruments.
Klein claims with cited sources, that Carolyn Bessette was late for the plane, causing it too fly when it was dangerous to do so because of declining visibility due to the coming darkness. She had her toe-nails painted 3 times so it could match her dress. That is why she held up the plane. John and Carolyn's sister were waiting on her. She answered John's calls to her cell with repeated replies, "I told you I'm getting a pedicure," while they waited at the airport. (Bimbo.)
JFK was an interesting individual, founding "George" magazine which had fascinating articles. Humble, articulate, and having class, no matter what John Jr. would have done in his life, he would have been captivating for the public and successful in his endeavors. We'll never know, such is life.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2003
This story has been told plenty of times before and in a more interesting manner particularly in Doris Kearns Goodwins' book, The Fitzgeralds and Kennedys. The difference with Klein's book is the new chapter of JFK, Jr. and his bride. But Klein really adds nothing new to that particular tragedy.
In addition to rehashing old facts and rumors, Klein's book has an air of sensationalism about it. It was hard to take this work seriously as he put forth some of his theories with no hard facts to back them up. The misfortunes that have been visited upon this family are more a result of their storied recklessness than a curse. I've never particularly been swept up in the public fascination with the Kennedys but I've read and know enough about them to say with confidence that you don't need to buy this book. You won't learn anything that hasn't been written before.
24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
This book doesn't need very much in the way of a review, because it is a quick read and the tale is in the title. I do, however, disagree with Klein's premise, which I find to be more of a fatuous PR ploy. There is no curse. That said, the book is readable, at least the first half, where Klein frequently quotes reputable historians, such as Doris Kearns Goodwin, as well as pertinent Irish historical references. When Klein discusses the infamous, but less important Kennedy's, like the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith, the text deteriorates (much like the family integrity) into speculation and less credible sources, such as Dominick Dunne.
The back cover suggests the book is "a detective story". It is more of a "defective" story, highlighting the Kennedy family flaws, certainly not providing good press for the Kennedy's. Much of the Kennedy men's brutish behavior is attributed to "narcissistic omnipotence". When you consider the rampant womanizing and indigenous alcoholism in the family, it would seem to be an oversimplification of the particular hubris that goes with politics, wealth and a free pass on responsibility for one's actions. I find it interesting that the so-called curse descends only on the male Kennedy's, with the exception of Kathleen, the oldest daughter.
In any case, the Kennedy men enjoyed a freedom that was unavailable to women at a time in American history when the public was still naïve about elected officials. This book is, if nothing else, a great romp of debauchery and lechery not seen since the days of pre-Revolutionary France, albeit virtually finished with the untimely death of JFK, Jr. His sister Caroline may yet prove the exception, but she is not infected with the swaggering bravado of her male counterparts. Given the intrinsic deception behind the whitewashed doors of Camelot, it is time to put the dead to rest and move on. Luan Gaines/2003.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2003
This book was disappointing. It was slim pickings compared to other books about the Kennedy clan, though it did sprinkle some interesting psychological insights throughout. The worst part about it was the author's flimsy and self-contradictory arguments as to why the Kennedys are supposedly suffering from a supernatural curse. As he so clearly shows, if the Kenedys are suffering from anything, it's bad judgment. Deluding themselves as accursed not only helps them evade responsibility from their poor judgments and the consequences, but also makes them appear all the more "special." Most people who behave the way they do are likely to be called "stupid" or "irresponsible" but not cursed. Of course, how many people would go out and buy a book called, "How the Kennedys suffer from their own bad judgment." When the Kennedys start to think before they act, they might find the "curse" disappears.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2003
I have enjoyed reading Ed Klein's biography's in the past but this book is so insubstancial as not to be worth a second glance. If all you are after is the JFK Jr. revelations buy Vanity fair...its all covered in the article and it will cost you less
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2004
Yet another book for the Kennedy cult, this one examining the so-called "curse" of the toothy family. Klein's book is not without interest for all those who are obsessed with America's unoffical royal family, but his premise is wrong. With the possible exception of the assassinations of JFK and RFK, the many tragedies that have befallen the Kennedy clan can be blamed on recklessness (skiing while videotaping your misadventures, piloting a plane when you aren't really experienced enough to be trusted all alone behind the controls, etc), and, though I hate to judge, poor parenting. The powerful men in the family were too busy acquiring power to instill sound values into their kids, and we have witnessed the wreckage.
Money, power, and fame can be a deadly combination for those who don't know that life is about something more tangible than that. If there is a curse, one might look to the family's patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, who built his fortune on bootlegging. The Bible says something about the sins of the father being inherited by his sons. Perhaps the devil is simply collecting on a debt that old Joe didn't repay.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2010
I finally got around to reading The Kennedy Curse by Edward Klein and it's a well written, easy to read, page turning book.
Here, you learn about the roots of the so called "Kennedy Curse" and the beginning of the Kennedy dynasty in America.
Patrick Joseph Kennedy left his family in Ireland to come to America, where he married and had kids only to pass 9 years after first arriving in America. He died from the bottle, aka drinking.
In order to try and fit into the WASP community (White Anglo Saxon Protestan), PJ Kennedy named his son Joseph Patrick Kennedy, because it didn't sound so Irish. Another piece of wood to the fire of the Kennedy Curse (as the book implies).
Joseph Kennedy went on to marry Rose Fitzgerald, whose father was the former mayor of Boston, Honey Fitz.
Joseph was determined to make it big in the world and become a millionare by the age of 30 (by 25 he made it). He made his money through bootlegging and the stock market and eventually, through favors, was able to land the prestigous role of Ambassador to England. WHile there, he sought to keep the United States out of World War 2, and went directly against President Franklin Roosevelt and argued for "appeasement" rather than risking war with Germany. He even came to admire Hitler and eventually, his lust for power and to become the 1st Irish-Catholic president went up in flames as he withdrew from his Ambassador role because he felt useless (FDR ignored him and kept him out of the loop as punishment for Kennedy speaking publically about siding with Germany).
Kathleen Kennedy, aka Kick, went against her mothers wishes and had a romantic affair with a married man, who she later ended up dying with in a plane crash.
Joseph Kennedy Jr., aka Joe, died in a top secret bombing mission when a wire malfunctioned in his plane causing his bomb loaded plane to blow up only minutes after takeoff. Before he left, Kennedy's last words were that the Kennedy family didn't need life insurance.
John F. Kennedy was a sex-crazed person who used woman to disguise the absent love he never got from his mother. His wreckless lifestyle according to the book, influenced the secret service agents protecting him, which failed to happen on November 22, 1963. Again, this according to the book.
Overall, from reading the book which clearly states that "This is a detective story", you come to understand that this is more of a story implied assumptions under the idea of a "curse".
The Kennedy's aren't cursed. They remind me of a person who goes to the beach, sees the "Beach Closed: Sharks, do not swim" and still jumps in. There is no curse to bad judgement.
The book often implies that bad twists of fate are because of the "Kennedy Curse", which 1st dates back to Patrick Joseph Kennedy (JFK's grandfather on his father's side) since he left his homeland and family behind. Again, bad judgment over and over by people who "tempted the fates" is not a curse.
Kick's lust to make an impact on the social status of England and ignoring her mother by having an affair with a married man wasn't a curse. JFK sleeping with every woman in America wasn't a curse. Joe Kennedy, JFK's older brother accepting a Top Secret mission where the chance of survival was 50-50 wasn't a curse. Ted Kennedy's womanizing wasn't a curse.
All of these "curses" have real documented truths behind them. Had Kick listed her to mother, she would not have made the secret trip with her married lover to meet their father. Had Joe Jr. not tried to 1 up his brother JFK for his PT 109 medal, or also having an affair with a married woman, then maybe he would have been the 1st Irish Catholic President. Had Teddy not been so wreckless about his affairs and drinking, maybe Mary Jo Pinochet would still be alive.
There is no "Kennedy Curse", as romantic as the idea of a curse being the causes for everything, there is no curse, just the plain truth. Overall, good book, but don't take it's idea of a "curse" literally.