Thursday, November 15, 2018

True Compass by Edward M Kennedy

I picked this up for nothing at a used book sale and ended up really enjoying it.  It's written by Kennedy shortly after he is diagnosed with the brain cancer that ultimately kills him.  The disease causes him to reflect on his family, his career in politics and life in general.

Kennedy thanks several people for helping him write so I have no idea how much he actually wrote, but I will say it's extremely well written.  I expected to have to skim over the more mundane political aspects, but even those were written in an accessible way that kept me interested.

Of course the most interesting parts to me were his stories of his family - particularly his older brothers John and Bobby and his parents.  Kennedy was 14 years younger than John, who was also his godfather, and clearly idolized him.  However when John was assassinated Teddy held it together for his parents and for Bobby who became very depressed.  It was only after Bobby was also assassinated that Teddy completely fell apart.  He doesn't go into detail but hints at alcoholism and his first marriage fell apart.

He was clearly revived by his second wife who really was the love of his life.  He also seems to have thrived on being a father, step-father and uncle, taking an active role in the lives of John and Bobby's children as well as those of his sisters.

His biggest personal life story was that of the accident in Chappaquiddick - he doesn't gloss over it but he doesn't provide a lot of insight either.  Only that the was depressed, drunk and exhausted - as well as injured after the accident - which he uses to explain if not excuse his behaviour.  He vehemently denies having been in a relationship with the young woman who was killed.

Portions of the book really resonate in today's political climate.  He talks about he judicial appointment process which, in his view, was not politicized until Nixon's times.  It's probably best for him that he didn't live to see what it has become today.  He also campaigned and governed with more grace than one sees today.

All in all an interesting book about one of the most influential political families of our times.

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