So… I can be a snob about novels that are fictionalized tales of real people in history. I admit to this. I’m obsessed with all things history and have spent many hundreds of hours happily lost in the rabbit holes of history, playing a sort of Word Association as I get lost in Wikipedia articles about obscure people and places I’ve never known just how badly I wanted to study. <b>The Kennedy Debutante</b> is different because, long before Wikipedia was a dream in the eye of whoever it was that started it, I had a bit of an obsession with the Kennedy family.
My family would probably say it was more than a ‘bit’ of an obsession and the stack of biographies still resides in my closet. I have to admit that Wikipedia is a little easier to handle than stacks of thousand pages biographies and histories.
But anyway, my obsession is still alive and well, it seems, because when I saw a novel about Kick Kennedy (JFK’s second sister, fyi) available for request on NetGalley, I clicked Request before I read the synopsis. (Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Books for granting me access in exchange for an honest review!)
So, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy was a debutante in London in when her father was U.S. Ambassador to England. Eighteen at the time, she was quickly swept up in the elite social circles of aristocratic England, despite her being a Catholic American. And she fell in love with the Marquess of Hartington, who was considered a potential husband for Queen Elizabeth II. He was a Protestant. This caused many problems.
Those are historical facts, a very quick summary.
For the book itself, the novelization of Kick Kennedy’s life… it just works. The looming backdrop of World War II, the fact that Kick is one of the lesser well-known Kennedys, the… I don’t know the reasons, really, but Maher has centered on something magical here. Kick’s view of the world is privileged but unique, bleak but honest, full of love and full of heartbreak.
This fast became one of those novels about real people where you find yourself thinking “I don’t know if this might have happened but… gosh, I hope it did!” because you want them to have their happily ever afters.
But Kick is sort of the forgotten tragedy when it comes to the Kennedy family. Hers was a life cut short at only twenty-eight, one full of love and strength and independence and character. I knew how it ended for her, for her and the Marquess she loved, for her in all things and yet Kerri Maher made me cry for Kick. It’s not easy to make me cry. But that someone as strong as Maher wrote Kick to be, as I believe she was from my dusty stack of biographies, lost so much made me root for her even when I knew how it would end.
If you like historical fiction, read this book. If you like love stories, read this book. If you’re alright with some angst and tragedy, read this book. If you know a little or a lot about the Kennedys, read this book. If you like fiction set around World War II, read this book. If you are human, just read this book!