The Kennedys, like the British Royal family, have been well chronicled over the years. I have a nice collection of Camelot-era books from my paternal grandmother, to which I have added many, if not most, of the biographies published since the late 1970s. Those have, for the most part, covered the fabled, tragic Kennedy brothers–Joe, Jr, President Kennedy, Bobby, and Ted or their sons and nephews. Recently, in the women’s power age, a slew of new biographies have emerged on the other Kennedys–the women. From tragic Rosemary to the wives, to the darling of them all–Kick, another tragic Kennedy.
Kathleen Kennedy, aka The Kennedy Debutante
Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy was at the right place at the right time and in the right social circle to boot. The vivacious daughter of U.S. Ambassador Joe Kennedy took the British aristocracy by storm in the late 1930s. With her sister, the tragic Rosemary, she was presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth as a debutante. This novel tells the story of her “Season” and the war years that followed. The focus, of course, is on her romance with the Duke of Devonshire’s (an outspoken anti-Catholic) elder son and heir, Billy, Marquess of Hartington.
My Thoughts : The Good and the Bad
I liked that Kathleen was shown as having very genuine faith. Convent-educated with a mother who attended mass daily, she could have become very jaded on the teachings of her church, but did not (at least not at the time of this book’s setting). She grapples with the very real dilemma of falling in love with and wanting to marry, a Protestant at a time when that was a big deal for ANY Catholic, let alone the son of one of the foremost Protestant families in England.
Kick also wants a purpose. I enjoyed this aspect of her “coming of age”–trying to find where she fit and could do something that mattered within the confines of her family and society at that time. She was not seeking to run a corporation–merely to do traditional “good works,” but ones that mattered. She would eventually have a bit of a career due to her own persistence. I liked that.
Overall, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. It is burdened with guidebook-like descriptions of places such as Blenheim, a ridiculous conversation that explained British titles and throughout the story was peopled with characters who barely had personalities. I really couldn’t imagine, from this telling, how Kathleen and Billy found each other attractive. Neither had any spark.
It was the same with the Kennedys in the story–none had that famous “charisma” that made them so popular. The author had an annoying habit of referring to the “littlest” Kennedys. I wanted to scream “Younger!!!” Even the parents, Joe and Rose Kennedy, were devoid of distinctive personalities.
Then there were the “modern” ideas inserted. Kick consults a priest who voices opinions that would have had him almost excommunicated in that day and age. Joe Kennedy is presented as trying to save Jewish children. Perhaps he did, privately, but his politics came dangerously close to supporting Hitler so I had to wonder.
The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher
For a more on Kick Kennedy
Kick: The True Story of JFK’s Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth by Paula Byrne. My review is here.