Ever since around ninth grade, I have found the Kennedy’s interesting. The whole idea of Camelot and the Kennedy Curse was fascinating, and I always found myself researching them and attempting to understand the hope, the tragedy, and the legacy.
Most of the books I’ve read focused on JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Joe Kennedy Sr., and Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The other Kennedys were background characters and briefly mentioned a couple of times, however, we never got a full glimpse of them. I was thrilled when I finally found a book about Rosemary Kennedy. I knew about the lobotomy, however, I was not sure about all the details.
This book was heartbreaking, tragic, and upsetting. You cannot help but be angry with what happened to Rosemary. She was a vibrant young woman, who at the age of 23 suffered a tragedy orchestrated by her own father. And it is hard to attempt to understand his reasoning because this was a different time. Most of the events and conversation that happened back then, would definitely not take place today. We know a lot more than we did back then.
I enjoy history. It’s great, but unfortunately, some things are lost in history and we are not able to fully understand what happened. I truly believe that there are some secrets about Rosemary’s lobotomy that the parties involved took to their graves. But I do applaud the author for doing her research and connecting the dots so that the reader could see glimpses of what happened. She did a great job at that.
While reading, it is clear that Kate Clifford Larson put her all in this. Everything was backed up with facts. If she wrote about something that happened, she cited letters, interviews, etc... There were little to none assumptions sans evidence.
I think that one of my favorite thing about this book was that it did not read like a history book. It was not boring, and it told a story that had emotion, and it was graceful. There were no skipping to random years; it went in chronological order. This made it easier to follow.
The majority of this book was focused on Rosemary. Her more famous siblings were mentioned, and it only swayed into their lives when there needed to be more clarity and a sense of time.
Like mentioned earlier, this book is tragic. There is no happy ending. Because I had already knew Rosemary’s fate before reading, her personal letters to her family felt haunting. She really tried to be the person that her mother and father wanted her to be. She followed their rules. She made no protest when they hid her disability. However, that was just not enough for them. They felt the need to cure her.
I think it is important to mention here that the Kennedy’s were not perfect. And this book showcases this. Everyone during that time believed they were, however, they were not aware of all the unfortunate events in their lives. I think this book also brings to light that Rose and Joe Sr. were very controlling parents and appeared to have crossed the line of mentally abusive and manipulative parents.
It was not outright stated, but the constant mentions of letters where Rose was obsessing over her children’s weight and her attempting to manipulate Kick (Kathleen Kennedy) when she was marrying someone who was not in her religion made me come to that conclusion. I appreciate how the author did not attempt to make the Kennedy’s appear perfect or cover up anything that could damage their rep. There no bias, which was nice.
Another thing that the author does not shy away from is the descriptions of the treatment and prejudice that individuals with mental disabilities faced. It was utterly heartbreaking to hear about the facilities that they lived in and the public opinion about those individuals. So many individuals’ lives were taken because of this disgusting and horrifying outlook.
Something that I felt was interesting and great was the author did not begin this novel with the mindset that everyone who read it would have an incredible amount of knowledge about the Kennedys. She did not begin by jumping right in to Rosemary’s journey. She went back a couple of generations and explained how the Kennedys first arrived in the United States. Even though I had already knew that information it was still great to have it present in the novel.
Before I end this, I would like to briefly talk more about Rosemary. Because this is nonfiction, the author cannot add any embellishments, and is only left to describe the character through historical documents. From what was given, Rosemary seemed like a lovely person. I could always picture her smiling. And I cannot imagine how hard it was to live up to the Kennedy name. I’m so glad that somewhere down the line she found a caring group of individuals.
While reading you cannot help but wonder what her life would have been like if she had not have had that lobotomy. I think if she was born in this time, her life would have been much different. We know so much more about mental disabilities.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter is a tragic novel about the life of Rosemary Kennedy. The novel is beautifully written with supporting details and stays focused on the main character. This book will have you crying at one point or the other.