Picks and Pans Review: Torn Lace Curtain

UPDATED 12/06/1982 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/06/1982 at 01:00 AM EST

by Frank Saunders

The author was the Kennedy family chauffeur for the last 10 years of Joseph P. Kennedy's life. Saunders grew up in foster homes, went into the Navy and was running a Boston parking lot and selling numbers when one of the old man's lieutenants offered him the job. "I drove the car. I showed the movies.... I cleaned their swimming pools, did painting and odd jobs. I carried Eunice Kennedy down the stairs when she was pregnant and rushed her to the hospital.... I washed and exercised Mr. Kennedy...." The Kennedys borrowed money from Saunders—even Jacqueline. And it is of her that Saunders gives a most exotic picture—a ghostly presence, trying to find something of her own in this noisy, self-centered family. Unlike many books written by the servants of famous people, Torn Lace Curtain is a pleasure to read. The large cast comes alive, and we learn, for instance, that John Kennedy was afraid to sleep alone—his friend Lem Billings, a cutup and joker, often shared the bedroom. The main character in the book is Rose, a frightened, vindictive, money-grubbing old lady in this account; she fired Saunders as soon as the old man died in 1969. This otherwise poignant memoir is marred only by the scorned servant's complaint: "Getting any kind of thanks from them was about as likely as getting a pay raise." (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $13.95)

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