Picks and Pans Review: Life with Rose Kennedy

updated 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Barbara Gibson with Caroline Latham

When Gibson, Rose Kennedy's personal secretary for nearly six years, politely introduced herself to Kennedy in-law R. Sargent Shriver, he glanced at her condescendingly, said, "Well, lah-dee-dah," and kept on walking. That sort of gossipy revelation is as deep as this book gets, but for those who share the common affliction of curiosity about the Kennedys, it provides a rare peek at the stoic Kennedy matriarch. Gibson, who liked Rose, bends over backwards to present her fairly. Rose comes across as a sharp-eyed, tough-minded woman who still has her grown children on the run. "Don't tell Mother" was the unofficial family motto, writes Gibson. The author says, for instance, that Rose was so frugal her Palm Beach mansion had to be overhauled when she wasn't around and didn't have to okay the cost. She cites an instance of Mrs. Kennedy trying to get a refund on cosmetics she had already used. Rose often communicated to her family by memo, chiding Shriver for letting daughter Maria "show her breasts" by wearing a halter top around the Hyannis Port compound. She dotes on Teddy, as she had on her other sons. To rumors of Bobby's involvement with Marilyn Monroe, she said, "I don't believe it could have happened...Bobby was always so sanctimonious." Another time daughter Jean Smith advised Rose that the entire clan would be visiting and asked, "What more could you want?" Rose said sadly, "I want my sons." When Gibson, now in Florida real estate, took the job in 1974, Rose told her, "You'll never have another job like this one." How right she was. (Warner, $16.95)

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