Before the presidency, before “Camelot”, before the assassinations, and before all the tragedies, there were nine children, nine Kennedy children. All the children were very different with their own personalities, likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, and dreams. Not a single one of them were alike. Controlled by a wealthy and power hungry father and a cold, distant, and ambitious mother, their lives were shaped during their childhood. What were their lives like before the Kennedy name was synonymous with tragedy? In “The Importance of Being Kennedy” by Laurie Graham, readers disappear into the early days of the Kennedy children and what their lives were like, described by their beloved nanny.
“The Importance of Being Kennedy” is seen through the eyes of Nora Brennan, the fictitious Irish nanny to the Kennedy children. She is their nanny from the first child to the ninth child. Nora develops a bond with all the children, but particularly Joseph, Jack, Kathleen, and Rosemary. Joseph, the oldest is handsome and groomed to become the president someday. Jack is often sickly, but has a charming way about him despite being in his brother’s shadow. Kathleen known as “Kick” is full of life and personality. Rosemary, Nora’s favorite is the beauty that has a big heart, but was misunderstood by her family. Nora also experiences the Kennedy parents firsthand with Joe’s ambition for his family, his drive to make money and be known as someone, and his womanizing and Rose, the strange mother who was more concerned with ambition and appearances rather than her children. All the events in the Kennedy children’s childhood is explored from their move to London when Joe became ambassador, Joseph losing his life during World War II, Jack being groomed as the new heir to the family, Kick’s marriage to a Protestant English nobleman and relationship with another that infuriated her Catholic mother, and Rosemary’s tragic lobotomy that changed her life forever. The novel ends with Kick’s death in an airplane crash and Nora pondering if all the tragedy brought up on her precious children had something to do with the ambition of the parents. The novel is a fascinating look at the Kennedy children before the White House and the further tragedies that would await them.
Graham has created an absolutely fascinating novel. This novel is so engrossing that you will find it hard to put down. Readers will disappear into the lives of the Kennedy children and find a favorite among them. Some readers will love watching Jack go from sickly boy to war hero to a young man on the brink of becoming president. His charm stood out even as a young boy. Other readers will love Kick, the free-spirit of the family who defied her family and religion to marry where she wanted. Rosemary is also a particular favorite as her story is so heartbreaking. She was the beauty of the family who was misunderstood by her parents who ended up destroying her life and taking away what was wonderful about her. Graham has given a personality to each of the children and you will find yourself falling in love with these children so controlled by their parents.
Graham also does an incredible job of portraying Joe and Rose Kennedy. Joe loved his children as he often spent time with them and helped them out of situations, but he loved power just as much. He is a well-rounded character that one minute you are disgusted with for having affairs in front of his wife and children and other times feeling something towards as he tells Kick he still loves her despite her unpopular marriage. Rose is the fascinating one of the novel though. This complicated woman was so concerned with ambition, appearances, and herself that it is hard to root for her. She believes she is a wonderful mother yet disappears to other countries, berates Rosemary for being fat, and disowns Kick for her marriage. She is a monster of a mother and yet at times, you can’t help, but be fascinated by her deep Catholic faith, ambition for her children, and intelligence.
Graham has done an amazing job on this novel. It is a complex look into a family so well-known and the children that became such figures in the family. You’ll feel as if you have been in the nursery with the Kennedy children after reading this novel!
To purchase “The Importance of Being Kennedy”: http://www.amazon.com/The-Importance-Being-Kennedy-Novel/dp/B0046LUDR4/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
For more information on Laurie Graham: http://www.lauriegraham.com/