Book Review: What Remains

Carole Radziwill has become a household name thanks to her participation on the reality show “Real Housewives of New York City.”  I have always found her to be the sane one on that show with a biting sense of humor.  Maybe that’s because she doesn’t need Real Housewives to make her interesting so she doesn’t try so hard or find it necessary to cause drama.  In fact, Real Housewives is probably the least interesting thing about Radziwill.

Let’s start with her name: the Radziwills are a royal Polish family.  Little Carole DiFalco from working class Suffern, New York married a prince, making her a princess.  But even before that, Carole Radziwill had led a life worth following.  She worked her way up the ladder at ABC, producing pieces on the Gulf War and the Khmer Rouge, earning three Emmy Awards in the process.  While working there, she met and eventually married Anthony Radziwill.  This marriage carried with it much more than the title of princess for though the Radziwills are actual European royalty, they also married into what we consider to be American Royalty: the Kennedys.  Anthony’s mother was Lee Radziwill (née Bouvier), the sister of Jackie O.  That means Anthony was first cousins and best friends with JFK Jr.  Now we’re talking juicy, Page Six type stuff since John Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette were spread across the gossip columns daily.  But to Carole, these were just her best friends.

This book could have been a salacious look inside the life of high society folk, but it’s not.  It is about the power of hard work and the enjoyment that comes from doing what you love.  It is about friendship and will remind every reader about the one person in each of our lives who can see into our soul.  It is about the life of a caretaker, a life that Carole is completely honest about.  When Anthony is diagnosed with cancer around the time of their marriage, Carole steps into the role of caregiver.  It was a long battle and Carole takes us through each stage.  She is at times in denial and at others simply tired.  We read as she reaches acceptance of her husband’s death…just in time to be blindsided by the death of her two best friends a mere three weeks before Anthony succombs to cancer.

As a journalist, Radziwill is interested in learning getting to the bottom of the story and she describes her family, friends, and the progression of disease just as she would attack a news piece.  It is this somewhat objective view that makes her come out seeming strong, not vulnerable.  This strength of character – and not her “fabulous” life – is what intrigues me most about Radziwill and makes this memoir so nice to read.