REVIEW: JANE FONDA: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF A PUBLIC WOMAN, BY PATRICIA BOSWORTH

 

Patricia Bosworth has gone beyond the image of an American superwoman to reveal a Jane Fonda more powerful and vulnerable than ever expected. Fonda emerged from a heartbreaking Hollywood family drama to become a ’60s onscreen ingénue and then an Oscar-winning actress. At the top of her game she risked all, rising up against the Vietnam War and shocking the world with a trip to Hanoi. While becoming one of Hollywood’s most committed feminists, she financed her husband Tom Hayden’s political career in the ’80s with exercise videos that began a fitness craze and brought in millions of dollars. Just as interesting is Fonda’s next turn, as a Stepford Wife of the Gulfstream set, marrying Ted Turner and seemingly walking away from her ideals and her career. Fonda’s multilevel story is a blend of the deep insecurity, magnetism, bravery, and determination that has fueled her inspiring and occasionally infuriating public life.

My Thoughts: In many ways, I have followed the numerous incarnations of Jane that have been described in Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman. Her early childhood experiences, including the tragedy of her mother’s suicide when she was twelve, and also highlighting her quest for her father’s love and approval, could describe many children growing up in a world with celebrity parents. The vulnerability, accompanied by constant attention, could come to chip away at the self-confidence of anyone. The early chapters in this book were the least fascinating to me, but I did enjoy learning more about her childhood.

My interest grew as I learned more about how Jane’s early years as an actress helped her develop greater self-confidence, but which did not completely satisfy her need for love and approval.

The incarnation that captured my interest the most was how she turned to political activism as a way of coming into her own, and also became a way of expressing her unique and independent perspective. But despite those who found her articulate and knowledgeable, there were also those who focused on the media’s hatred of her visit to Hanoi during the war. The label of Hanoi Jane would follow her and threaten her for years.

Then in still another incarnation, her turn at developing her own business through the work-out tapes and the resulting empire would be followed by still another life as a tycoon’s wife.

Unexpected shifts over the years would reveal how much of Jane’s life could almost certainly be seen as a series of changes and reinvention. Fascinating and revelatory. I enjoyed this book and have awarded it 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: ROSEMARY: THE HIDDEN KENNEDY DAUGHTER, BY KATE CLIFFORD LARSON

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Over the years, I have read numerous memoirs and biographies that feature the Kennedys. But none have focused on their first daughter…until this book, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter.

The author skillfully incorporated the stories of the Kennedy family, their position in society, their various homes and political experiences, and then spotlighted Rosemary as the centerpiece in the way that she affected all of their choices.

Not that she was viewed as more important, but in trying to meet her mental and emotional challenges, the parents were forced to study up and increase their knowledge of what was available, and in later life, her needs and what her experiences had shown them would impact donations, foundations, and laws introduced by the political members of the family.

The experience of Rosemary’s birth, as the first daughter and third child for Joe and Rose, would, of course, set her life on an irreversible journey, facing challenges none of the other siblings would have to face.

The era of her birth and early childhood years (1917-1920s) were absent the knowledge and expertise that would come later. Special education and resources to meet those needs, as well as knowing what to do to overcome brain injuries suffered in birth, would be many years away.

The Kennedy wealth did help to smooth the way to schools, the resources that were available, and experiences of living abroad when Joe, Sr., was an ambassador to England.

The frustrations of Rosemary as a young adult would lead to one of the most chilling experiences ever, in my opinion. The lobotomy.

Still in the experimental stages, (and hopefully, a thing of the past now), the procedure was somehow offered as a potential cure for Rosemary, but I’m not sure her father even believed that there would be a cure. He seemed keenly aware of the dangers of having her out there in the world, behaving badly, jeopardizing herself, and giving the family a bad name, and he could not take that risk.

When in this state of mind, a parent can be persuaded of any number of things. But after the lobotomy, Rosemary’s condition lost considerable ground, physically and mentally, and institutions were her future. Cut off from the world, her family, and life as she’d known it…possibly the only blessing for her was that she might have lost many memories of how things had been before.

It is easy to lay blame on decisions and choices made in stressful situations, especially for a family consumed with wealth, power, and their reputation…but, in the end, we can also blame the lack of knowledge in the medical profession at the time, coupled with the desire of the experimenters to push their own theories forward.

A book that kept me fascinated throughout, it also added more layers to the family picture. I especially enjoyed seeing the photos, showing Rosemary as part of the family. 4.5 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***