Review: The Kennedy Debutante

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Mahler

Berkley Books, 2018. Hardcover, 384 pages.Cover: The Kennedy Debutante

Starting with Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy’s debut into London society, this novel envisions the life of the glamourous Kennedy daughter from her father’s debut as ambassador to London in 1938 through the end of World War II.  Despite what the press may say, not all in Kick’s life is as shiny as it seems. Kick longs to have her own life, preferably in the city she came to love. She is eager to escape a strict regimen organized by her parents and the antics of her older brothers.  Though she loves her older sister, Kick is tired of having to help keep an eye on Rosemary due to the elder sister’s behavior. Still, she attends parties with the British of her class and becomes good friends with many, including Debo Mitford.  She also finds herself falling for Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire, while knowing their differences in faith would prevent the union.  Few see or understand her struggles.

When the outbreak of war forces Kick from London, she does all she can to return.  First, she took a job at a newspaper in Washington, D.C., then eventually the Red Cross.  In both positions, Kick must provide she can stand on her own two feet. Upon her eventual return to Britain, Kick must face the biggest struggle for the future she desires, that of her faith.  Could she, a devout Catholic, marry her one true love, a Protestant? If so, how would that change her life?

As a whole, the novel was well-written and well-researched.  This led to a wide array of details included, about not only Kick and her family’s lives but also the era.  Making the novel better was that these details were effortlessly incorporated into the flow of the prose.  Readers will gain an insight not only to Kick’s life, but that of her closest family members (Joe, Sr., Joe, Jr, Jack, Rose, and Rosemary), and their associated struggles.  Kick’s struggle to decide the best path in life for herself was at the forefront of the novel and readers rode the same emotional tidal wave as Mahler envisions Kick did. In its essence, this novel is a coming-of-age story.

Mahler states all her sources in the author’s note at the novel’s end and she used a plethora of biographies and primary source documents stored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.  One of the mentioned biographies on Kick, I have read back in the spring: Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter by Barbara Leaming.  The events between both match well, however Leaming books was dry reading.  Mahler also mentioned using Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson about the eldest Kennedy daughter, whom Kick was close.  That biography was an excellent book in both the writing and details; it also made for an interesting book club discussion.  In fact, so would this novel.

Have you read a book about Kick Kennedy to recommend?  Or one on another member of her family? Do you think you will read this novel?

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the digital review copy.  This novel will be released on October 2, 2018.


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