This is not a book about the Kennedys; yes, of course, Jackie Kennedy and her children play major roles in the life of Kathy McKeon but the overall story is how a young, Irish immigrant found her place in America at the side of one of the most beloved American families.
Kathy was raised in poverty on a farm in Ireland, when she was nineteen her American uncle offered to pay the way for her brother to come to New York but he declined. The uncle then offered to bring Kathy and her sister, Briege, over instead. The plan was for her to get a job as a live-in (Irish girls were the most popular in New York society circles), send money back home, find a nice Irish man to marry and then move back home to start a family.
When Madam told me I was part of the family, I felt the first stirrings of quiet rebellion, and I heard a small inner voice issue a firm warning: No, you’re not.
Her first job as a live in, with the politely ambiguous named Mrs C, was unpleasant but didn’t last long. A friend got her an interview with the newly widowed Mrs Kennedy, who she calls Madam, and she started the job that would change her life immediately. She intersperses stories about her Irish childhood with her experiences working at 1040 as Jackie Kennedy’s personal assistant and occasional governess to John and Caroline.
The problem was, there was no such thing as a time clock to punch. I was on duty until Madam decided I wasn’t.
“Kath, could you come here for a minute?”
The request always came after dinner, just when I thought my long day was done and it might be safe to slip out the door to enjoy the rest of my evening…
She treads a delicate balance of being honest about some of the more irritating requests and quirks of working for the Kennedys without being disrespectful towards a family she has a lot of love for. She worked with the Kennedys following JFK’s assassination for about a decade; she was there when they got word RFK was killed and Ted Kennedy’s scandal following Mary Jo Kopechne’s death. She was one of only a handful of people who knew about Jackie’s engagement to Aristotle Onassis and went to Greece for the secret ceremony. She summered with the extended Kennedy family in Hyannis port- even after she left their employ!
During her time as Jackie’s Girl she met a man, Seamous McKeon, that she fell in love with and eventually married. They didn’t go back to Ireland though and eventually Jackie’s Girl became exclusively Seamous’ Girl when they started a family. Despite leaving her position within the family Kathy remained close to the Kennedy’s and continues to have a relationship with its last living member, Caroline.
There is very little information about Camelot that Kennedy buffs won’t already have known but the anecdotes about who Jackie was behind closed doors, as a woman and as a mother, are enjoyable to read. It’s a sweet book written by a woman who cherished her time within one of the great American dynasties.