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The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie…

The Importance of Being Kennedy (2008)

by Laurie Graham

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Great story "as told" by the fictional nursery maid. ( )
  readingfiend | May 8, 2011 |
I love reading about the Kennedys, for some unknown reason, and I have a soft spot for JFK, but who's to say what is fact and what is fiction when reading the many and multiform biographies and histories printed about the family? Laurie Graham's delightful novel does away with this question by openly combining the two.

Told through the eyes of Irish nurserymaid Nora Brennan, this is the story of the Kennedy family from the birth of eldest son Joseph Patrick to the death of Kick just after the war. Graham captures the familiar caricatures of the family, including greedy, ambitious Joe and cold-hearted Rose, but also creates a life 'below stairs' with the mostly Irish staff. Nora meets her husband Walter while staying at Chatsworth with Kick, who was briefly married to the eldest Devonshire son, and stays in touch with her family and friends in America. I love Nora's blunt wisdom and her dry wit, and her conversations and letters with her sister Margaret in New York are hilarious.

It is very easy to overlook this story as an ode to the Kennedys, but don't be put off. Even readers with no interest whatsoever in America's first family will enjoy Graham's easy narration and likeable characters. When Nora leaves the family to stay in England and get married, we experience the Second World War and the Blitz through her eyes. As in The Future Homemakers of America, Laurie Graham manages to represent both the beleaguered British and the independent Americans with spirit - Nora is respectful of her adopted country, but also does her part for the war effort in London. The Kennedys are portrayed sympathetically, for the most part - Joe might have forced his sons into politics, but he cared about his family, and even though Rose didn't seem to have a sentimental bone in her body, she was a strong woman who had a lot to put up with at home. Kick Kennedy comes across as a lovely, vibrant woman who breaks away from the family influence to live her own life in England, and poor Rosie's fate is heart-breaking.

Wonderful - amusing, honest, warm and cleverly told. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | May 3, 2011 |
Using the device of a fictional nanny, Graham takes an inside look at the Kennedy family, from shortly before the birth of JFK in 1917 to the death of daughter Kathleen in 1948. Nora Brennan, an Irish immigrant, is the main caretaker of the young children during these years. Graham's research seems evident, as she portrays the members of the large family. Father Joe is a philanderer. Mother Rose leaves much of the day-to-day care of the children to the nannies and often leaves on extended vacations. JFK (always called Jack by his family) was sickly throughout much of his life. Daughter Rose Marie was a sweet child, but became more difficult to manage as an adult and underwent a lobotomy which ruined her life. Daughter Kathleen was more or less cut off from the family (especially Rose) after she married a Protestant. When Kathleen dies in a plane crash, only her father attends her funeral in France. There is also much interesting material about daily life in London during the air raids of World War II. ( )
  dbartlett | Apr 7, 2008 |
An uncorrected proof recieved for review from HarpersCollins. I enjoyed the book overall and thought the characters were portrayed accuratly. I think anyone whi ever was intrested in the Kennedy family would enjoy this glimpse of what it may have been like being a Kennedy child.

353 pages. ( )
  chaoscat60 | Jan 26, 2008 |
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To Jeremy Magorian,
Venice's own Mrs. Thrale
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I happened to be in London in January 1970, when I got a call from my New York office to say my Aunt Nora had died.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061173525, Hardcover)

From the fictitious diary of the equally fictitious Kennedy nanny comes an inside look into the early years of the dynasty—with all the juicy bits intact.

Newly arrived from Ireland, Nora Brennan finds a position as nursery maid to the Kennedys of Brookline, Massachusetts—and lands at the heart of American history. In charge of nine children practically from the minute they're born—including Joe Jr., Jack, Bobby, Teddy, vivacious "Kick," and tragic Rosemary—she sees the boys coached at their father's knee to believe everything they'll ever want in life can be bought. She sees the girls trained by mother Rose to be good Catholic wives. With her sharp eye and her quiet common sense, Nora is the perfect candidate to report on an empire in the making. Then World War II changes everything.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:02 -0400)

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From the Publisher: When Nora Brennan, fresh to America from Ireland, lands herself a position as nursery maid to a family in Brookline, Massachusetts, she little thinks it will place her at the heart of American history. But her job is with the Kennedy family, so how could it not? Nora has charge of all nine Kennedy children, practically from the minute they're born. She sees the boys coached at their father Joe's knee to believe everything they'll ever want in life can be bought. She sees the girls trained by Rose Kennedy ("Herself") to be good Catholic wives. With her sharp eye and her quiet common sense, Nora is the perfect candidate to report on an empire in the making. World War II changes everything. When war breaks out, Nora and the Kennedys are in London, where Joseph Kennedy is the American ambassador. His reaction is to send the entire household back across the Atlantic to safety, but Nora, surprised by midlife love, chooses to stay in England and do her bit for the war effort. Separated from her Kennedys by an ocean, she nevertheless remains the warm, approachable sun around which the older children orbit: Joe Jr. and Jack, both serving in the US Navy; Rosemary, tragically unable to fit into the Kennedy mold; and Kathleen, known affectionately as "Kick," who throws a spanner in the Kennedy works by marrying an English Protestant. Dear Nora has a deliciously inside view of everything that is happening upstairs, and in this fictional diary she tells all with the humor and candor that only a nursemaid dare employ. Witty, irreverent, and a rollicking good read, The Importance of Being Kennedy is social satire at its best.… (more)

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