The Kennedy Debutante
Book Review - The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher
As much as I’ve studied WWII and as much as I adore the legacy of the Kennedy Family, I’m surprised I know so little about the second oldest daughter of this infamous family, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy. Just partway though the book I found myself Googling Kathleen Kennedy because I had to know more about her and I couldn’t read the book fast enough. I think the best historical fiction books inspire more research on the subject and this one inspired me to do just that before I even made it halfway through the book.
As I’m sure you surmised, Kick is JFK’s sister. As a former president of the United States, JFK gets quite a bit of attention…and rightfully so. But I love that he took a backseat to Kick in this book and was only a minor character in this novel. The book focused primarily on Kick’s passionate relationship with Billy Cavendish. As you know, the Kennedy’s were staunchly Catholic…but the Cavendish family was loyal to the Church of England. Their differences in religion left Kick and Billy confused and conflicted about their love for one another - and it seems every family member and friend had an opinion on the matter. On top of that, England and America were in the thick of WWII and Billy was drawn to fight on the front lines in defense of his beloved England.
This book left me grateful for the time I get to spend with my loved ones and served as a reminder to appreciate every last second I get with my husband. Both Billy and Kathleen’s lives were cut short (this happened over 50 years ago so you can’t call spoiler alerts!) but their love for one another was undoubtedly worth the challenges that led to their short marriage. But what I really loved most about this book was Kick’s love of London. When I moved to Chicago I felt a love for a location that I had never experienced before - Kick’s love of London seems to match my love for Chicago. It was nice to read about someone else with a passion for a location that seemed to match my own. It also made me want to visit London and try to see it from Kick’s eyes.
The last thing that inspired me about the book was the thread throughout the novel about Vol de Nuit parfum by Guerlain. It was given as a gift to Kick from her mother at a time when her mother didn’t show much affection. It really touched Kick that her mother would give her such a thoughtful gift that illustrated how well her mother really knew her. She mentions this perfume several times throughout the book - how it made her feel sophisticated and gave her a confidence boost at times. Marilyn Monroe once said, “There are no women who do not like perfume, there are women who have not found their scent.” I think Kick was lucky to find her scent early in life…even if that scent now costs $350 a bottle.
According to Neiman Marcus, “Vol de Nuit derives its name from the novel by Antoine de Saint Exupery, which relates the drama and excitement of the early years of aviation. In the novel, a pilot, newly wed, loses control of his aircraft, while his wife in the control tower waits feverishly for a sign of life. Vol de Nuit is a vibrant homage to this moving love story and to women who know how to live with danger.” I would certainly say that Kick knew how to live with danger, she also had a moving love story of her own. I don’t know if the perfume was woven into the story by the author or if this was actually the scent Kick preferred. I’m not sure I want to know either way.