Book Review: »The Kennedys – End of a Dynasty«

LIFE »The Kennedys – End of a Dynasty«, edited by Robert Sullivan. New York, 2009.


This timely book documents the life and times of America’s de facto royal family. Published just months after the death of Teddy Kennedy, the last patriarch of the Kennedy dynasty, it is a fitting tribute to the family that was a fixture on the American political scene for so many years and provides the reader with a glimpse into the personal as well as political lives they led.

The book is divided into two main chapters; the first gives the reader an overview of the family history, from their humble beginnings as part of the great wave of Irish immigrants who streamed to America after the potato famine, through to their meteoritic rise to prominence in American business and political life. The chapter also includes short profiles of each of John F. Kennedy’s siblings as well as of JFK himself, a must-have navigation feature when dealing with such a large family! The family tree at the beginning of the book is another such handy tool.


The second chapter is much more picture-laden, with beautiful, expertly-shot photographs of some of the key events in Kennedy history, many of which first appeared years ago in the pages of LIFE. Iconic photos, such as the one of Caroline and John-John playing in the Oval Office or that of John and Bobby heads bowed in concentration as they discuss campaign tactics, help to create a more personal portrait of the family. However, LIFE does not skirt away from mentioning the more painful memories in the family history, be it the assassinations of John and Bobby or the infamous Chappaquiddick incident, which arguably prevented Teddy from taking up the mantle from his fallen brothers and lead America as president.


Nevertheless, amidst all the talk of Teddy’s death last August signifying the death knell of the Kennedy clan’s political presence, Life proposes that although the brothers have gone, their era was »perhaps…the first Kennedy dynasty. Only tomorrow knows.«