Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Kick" by Paula Byrne

After many years (too long) in relative obscurity, it seems Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, favourite sister of the late president, is finally getting her share of the limelight with not just one but two biographies published within several months of each other.

Earlier this spring, I read & reviewed the first of those biographies, "Kick Kennedy" by Barbara Leaming. I was surprised to see yet another book about Kick on the shelves of my local mega-bookstore in early July. I finished reading it while on my recent vacation.

The Leaming book focused specifically on Kick's time in England. It provides readers with some good background on life among the upper classes in England before, during and after the Second World War -- the England that Kick knew and loved so well -- and on Chatsworth and the Devonshire family, specifically. Leaming was lucky enough to interview Andrew, Duke of Devonshire, and several of Kick's other British friends and contemporaries (several of whom have since passed away).

By contrast, "Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth" by Paula Byrne covers Kick's entire life, drawing on previously unreleased material including Kick's own letters, diaries and scrapbooks. As a result, it's a much fuller picture of Kick's life, personality and influences. As one Goodreads reviewer noted, the title is slightly misleading, because Kick's romance with & marriage to Billy Hartington (the heir to Chatsworth) is only part of the overall story here. However, Byrne is British and I imagine the book was titled with a British audience in mind (not sure many North American readers would know what Chatsworth is/was). (The cover photo, though, plays up the "JFK's sister" angle, with a photo of both of them together at the beach.)

If I had to pick just one book to recommend to someone wanting to know more about this remarkable young woman, I would choose this one. Together, both books provide a much fuller portrait of her than we've had to date.

This was book #12 that I've read so far in 2016.

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