Book Review Thirty-One
June 2, 2012
With the recent sad and untimely passing of Robert Kennedy, Jr.'s wife, Mary, J. Randy Taraborrelli's, After Camelot, offers readers a quality resource on the lives of the Kennedy family after the summer of 1968. Although much of what is written about the Kennedys seems to fall in either the extreme positive or negative category, Taraborrelli appears to have found the right balance of praise and criticism of arguably the most influential American family of the past fifty years. The chapters are written so that their independence allows you to pick and choose the order of which mini-biographies that interest you. As you might expect a sizable portion of After Camelot deals with the life and influence of Senator Ted Kennedy. Taraborrelli however does not allow the surviving brother to overshadow the lives of others. There is the touching and compassionate telling of the years of Rosemary Kennedy, who despite her physical and mental limits still managed to keep some of her unique personality. She became the inspiration for Eunice Shriver's creation of the Special Olympics and for Jean Smith to develop the Very Special Arts. Both of these organizations were supported by every member of the Kennedy family and have forever made a positive change in the way the world relates to those with special needs. Taraborrelli also examines the men who were married to the daughters of Joseph and Rose, especially the life of Sargent Shriver. This very good and decent man who possessed the qualities that made him the equal of the Kennedy brothers was often forced to see his potential diminished by the ambitions of his in-laws.
Although the third generation of Kennedys contains its share of the dark side of the actual Camelot story, especially the life of Robert Kennedy's son, David and John F. Kennedy, Jr., the high standard of social service has been upheld. While a few have been elected to public office, the majority choose to serve as trustees of universities, are active in promoting human rights, the environment and various children's charities.
In the notes and sources portion of After Camelot, Taraborrelli provides lists of interviews with several members of the Kennedy family and associates as well as the original author notes from some of the major Kennedy works. One surprising source was his access to the 40 years of personnel correspondence between Jackie Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson.
If you are a Kennedy family enthusiast or someone interested in the history of the time period, After Camelot is a very enjoyable read and a worthwhile reference book.