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Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (1890-1995) was the daughter of a devoutly Catholic disciplinarian and an extroverted Boston mayor whose career was blighted by his affair with a cigarette girl nearly half his age. Sounds like a recipe for a dramatic life-and it is-but Perry's bio (after Jacqueline Kennedy), though interesting at times, is disappointingly whitewashed. When Rose married the son of her father's political rival, her lifelong pursuit of excellence melded with her husband's hunger for power. The profoundly religious mother of nine said that her great ambition was to have her children be as morally, physically, and mentally perfect as possible, and she expected the same of herself: a master of public composure, Rose was a svelte and smartly dressed compulsive shopper who "never publicly conceded" knowledge of her husband's womanizing, and put on a brave face after the violent deaths of four of her children. She proved an indefatigable campaigner for her sons, yet surprisingly never bothered herself with women's political issues (Pope Pius XII, however, granted her the title of countess in recognition of her prodigious charity work). To profile a Kennedy outshone by the men in her life is an admirable goal, but Perry uncovers little that Rose herself didn't reveal. 16 pages of photos. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Perry (Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier) gained access to 300 boxes of Rose Kennedy's personal letters and journals, now held at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. From these, Perry dug out new information about the Kennedy clan and saw how Rose forged through a lifetime with much sorrow and loss. As a self-absorbed, distant young mother-whose frequent trips abroad, possibly to distance herself from a philandering husband, left her young children feeling abandoned-and later as a mature and politically active, media-savvy campaigner, Rose Kennedy knew how to play society and work connections to get what she wanted. Perry's biography is a finely crafted, comprehensive account of one of the most driven women in the shadows of American political history, who found solace in her Catholic faith to overcome the disappointments of her marriage, the deaths of her sons and daughter, and the burdens from a mentally challenged daughter. VERDICT 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, Algonquin P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.