Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ted Kennedy's Memoirs

I have just finished reading Ted Kennedy's memoir True Compass, which was completed only weeks before he died. It was a fascinating read. He has written many books before on political issues but never has he so openly and honestly talked about his own life which had so many highs and lows. He goes through it all: the privileged childhood, the Harvard screw up, JFK 1960, the assassinations, Chappaquiddick, the senate, Jimmy Carter, its all there. I would recommend this book to anyone, even my conservative American readers who couldn't stand him. His life story is like reading a chronology of recent world history. He even writes clearly about his memories of living in London at the out break of the second World War where his father was posted as US ambassador to Britain. I also found it refreshing how he viewed the second World War not as a chapter in world history but as a personal tragedy in which he lost his own brother. He has his own personal angle of so many historical events but what makes it so interesting is that its usually from close up and sometimes from right in the center. The 1950's red scare, his brothers presidential campaign, the Vietnam war, Watergate, the Regan, Clinton and Bush years were all eras that he witnessed first hand and often played key roles in.

More than anything though this is a personal book about his life. He frequently reiterates that the tragedies in his life are no greater than those experienced by most large families. Quite a statement considering how by aged 36 he had buried four siblings. Not to mention the fatal plane and car crashes he was in. His relationship with his family is the best thing about this book. There was the complicated relationship he had with his highly driven yet sentimental father as well as his devout mother who died in 1995 aged 105. He goes into detail about his relationship with Bobby and Jack and his personal account of their deaths is intense. He writes frankly about his two marriages, one successful, the other less so. Then there is his children, two of whom barely survived cancer. It all makes for a very special read and one of those rare books that you can't put down. What makes it all so poignant is that it was written in the final months of his life when he knew he was dying. Its philosophical style in this respect is very thought provoking which I suppose is the point. I would give this book 8 out of 10.

Incidentally I have decided to review more books on Gubu world. I will try post one book review per week as I have read many over the last year.

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