“If you didn’t know already that Kathleen’s a fighter,” said Rose, her normally shrill voice unusually smooth and low, “then you haven’t been paying attention.”
Growing up as a Kennedy woman comes with a specific set of rules. The first being: marry a good Catholic boy from a notable family. The second being: Once you’re married, your only jobs are to have children and keep a full social calendar.
Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy is aware of what is expected of her as she is presented to London society in Spring of 1938. However, as she takes a liking to Billy Harington, the son of the Duke of Devonshire and a member of the protestant church, those expectations begin to chafe. As London continues a steady path towards war and her father is making less and less friends at the US Ambassador, Kick finds herself wanting to do her part and not in a way that in emblazoned with the name Kennedy. She wants to contribute without resting on the laurels of her last name. One small act of rebellion starts her on a new path. On her new journey she begins to realize the rules for Kennedy boys are very different from Kennedy girls and that to live the life she wants it may come at the cost of her family.
“Stealing another glance at Jack and Inga, she flooded with rage. Her faith, her love of her family, stopped her from behaving as they did. But Jack didn’t have to choose between loyalty and lust. What would it feel like to give in? she wondered. Where would that path lead her?
Look where it led Rosemary. Kick knew there were big difference between her and her sister, but what they had in common was more important than all of them: they were both Kennedy girls.”
I have a…vehement…interest in the Kennedys. Not necessarily the scandal of it all or even the ins and outs of JFKs death, but definitely a strong need to “figure them out”. The last five years have been a continuous fact finding mission of all things Kennedy—fiction and nonfiction. That being said, it is surprising that this is the first Kennedy (or Kennedy adjacent) book I have consumed this year. I am usually 3-4 deep by this time. And obviously this one is nonfiction, but I always consider these “gateway” books. They give me just enough information to pique my interest and then I start the deep dive.
Previously, I have read very little about Kick Kennedy or really any of the girls so that drew me in. I knew vaguely about her marriage and her subsequent passing, but that was it. I have a few books specifically on my “want to read” list and these seemed like a good place to start.
Admittedly, I felt the book was a little slow. I spend the whole time waiting for her to strike out, see her plan through, make it back to London. And then once she got back, I felt we were rushing towards the end. However, I was very intrigued with Kick’s internal conflict. Her battle between her faith and love, her family and her dreams, and who she is expected to be versus who she wants to be. To grow up in family that is so restrictive but with such high expectations had to be maddening at time, especially when it is noted that her brothers are not held to the same standards. I appreciated the grace she handled everything with. Yes, she “rocked the boat” but she never truly made a scene. She worked hard and sacrificed to try and make the best decisions for everyone.
“The fact that she’d gotten what she wanted out of this conversation felt like a huge victory. She walked out of her father’s office feeling lighter on her feet than she had in weeks. As light as Jack always appeared. So this was what it felt like to be free.”
This is not your typical WWII fiction book that seems so popular these days—it’s not a woman finding her place in the war, but still a woman trying to find her place in the man’s world. I think it’s a fresh spin with an iconic name to anchor the story on. Ironic, right? Kick is fighting against the Kennedy name and here it was just that, that pulled me into to reading this book. I definitely recommend it, especially if you want to read something about the Kennedys in a kinder light.
This book qualifies for my “cityscape” Bingo square: In the above picture you see the skyline of London.