The Importance of Being Kennedy

Written by Laurie Graham
Review by Viviane Crystal


Nora Brennan, newly arrived from Ireland, narrates her life as nursery and companion servant of the renowned Kennedy family. But reader, beware: Nora’s tale is no sanitized version of the Kennedy family’s pre-Camelot days.

Referring to Joe Kennedy as Mr. K and Rose as “Herself,” Nora reveals the complex side of both. We read how both plotted and planned every second of their children’s lives, from what they were allowed and forced to read, their lack of friends, their fiercely competitive games generating support and animosity, their attempts to warn each other and hide associations that would flip out their parents, and so much more. In multiple comic and also distressing scenes, Nora describes Rose Kennedy as a directive but totally absent mother, frequently leaving her children to go shopping and touring in Europe while her children forged on without her. Nora is merciless in her descriptions of Rose, deriding her with humor and scornful commentary as well as through dialogue with fellow servants. The novel also spans the family’s slow but steady rise in politics, including Joe Kennedy’s financial support of FDR’s election, his time in England as the U.S. ambassador, the family and servants’ contrasting roles during the long years of World War II when England was often bombed on a daily basis, and of course the all too well-known tragedies of Joe’s and “Kick” Kennedy’s deaths.

As harshly judgmental as this diatribe against Joe and Rose can get, this fictional account is a rousing good read that hits the mark with a comically satirical edge. Very nicely done, Ms. Graham, but, alas, the Kennedys won’t be inviting you to dinner after this one. Bear it like a Kennedy! Hold your head high and smile at all times!