History, Memoir/Autobiography, Nonfiction

The Nine of Us by Jean Kennedy Smith

Growing Up Kennedy

This summer, the last of the nine Kennedy siblings, Jean, passed away at the age of 92. I’d had a copy of The Nine of Us sitting on my shelf as an ARC and as I’ve been working my way threw all my old ARCs, I figured it time to read The Nine of Us.

Synopsis

From the publisher marketing:
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.”

Review

Admittedly, I every Kennedy memoir and biography I’ve read, I do so looking for the Kennedy sibling that fascinates me most, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy. I’ve read every bio of her that I’ve come across (all two of them), as well as a couple other Kennedy memoirs and biographies as well. They are, after all, (regardless of what anyone says about the Kardashians and Trumps) the closest we have to a royal family in America. JFK’s been gone almost sixty years and we still care about the extended family.

While every biography of the Kennedys I’ve read is full of gossip and salacious details (Marilyn Monroe always comes up), it was refreshing to read about the nine siblings as a close knit family. And Jean might be the writer and it is clearly from her perspective as one of the younger siblings, it’s not really her memoir, all of her siblings feature prominently throughout the book – it truly is a memoir of a family.

In addition to being family focused, the main siblings featured are those closer to Jean’s age – Bobby, Pat, Eunice and Teddy. Much has been written about Bobby, but not so much about Pat, Eunice and Teddy. It was neat to get a glimpse into the lives of the younger Kennedy siblings over Joe and Jack and to an extent, Rosemary and Kick. The antics the younger siblings would get up to was fun to read about, as well as how their lives changed during the time they spent as children in the UK.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read and the audiobook is also quite good. I recommend it for anyone who is interested in the Kennedys (obviously) but also those interested in reading about the American (and immigrant) experience.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon. Click the image below to add the book to your Goodreads TBR!

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