Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rose Kennedy's Family Album: From the Fitzgerald Kennedy Private Collection, 1878-1946 by Caroline Kennedy

As much as I complain about how many Kennedy family books have been published, I do seem to enjoy them when I read then. I just finished Rose Kennedy's Family Album: From the Fitzgerald Kennedy Private Collection, 1878-1946 by Caroline Kennedy, which I downloaded onto my iPhone through eRead Illinois, a new digital download service being set up in Illinois libraries. I was curious how well a photo album would work on a smartphone.

While I know I would see more detail in the photos in both print and tablet reading, I have been pleasantly surprised. The images are sharper than in some of our older print photobooks, especially those sold cheaply at the big box bookstores in the past. Because images come in both portrait and landscape formats, I turn the iPhone occasionally to get maximum size, but that is not hard to do. A few of the photos in the essay sections were out of ratio no matter which way I turned them, but most were right. The weakest element is the presentation of handwritten letters. Sloppy handwriting and small reproduction make a few of them nearly unreadable.

Sloppy from the elegant and sophisticated Kennedys? The Kennedy sons may have been sent to private schools, but their penmanship and spelling were sub-standard.

I think presenting the Kennedy story through photos is quite effective. In the early chapters, seeing lots of fairly typical beach and backyard photos, they seem almost like any other twentieth century family, just super-sized. Then they start visiting the king at Buckingham Palace, the pope at the Vatican, and the pyramids at Giza. By the time I saw the photo of seven year old Teddy Kennedy watching Mussolini's troops march in early 1939, I knew the Kennedys were not ordinary.

Caroline Kennedy ends this account with 1946 when John F. Kennedy wins his first Congressional election. I wonder if there might be a second volume coming. I am now more curious about Joseph Kennedy, the tea-drinking son of a saloonkeeper. Perhaps I will seek the recent book about his years running Hollywood film studios. Can you imagine that after me complaining about too many Kennedy books? 

Kennedy, Caroline. Rose Kennedy's Family Album: From the Fitzgerald Kennedy Private Collection, 1878-1946. Grand Central Publishing, 2013. 351p. ISBN 9781455544806.

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