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The Importance of Being Kennedy [Paperback]

Laurie Graham
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

2 Jun 2008

A brilliant novel by Laurie Graham set in wartime London, which follows Kick Kennedy, sister of future US President JFK, as she takes London society by storm.

Nora Brennan is a country girl from Westmeath. When she lands herself a position as nursery maid to a family in Brookline, Massachusetts, she little thinks it will place her at the heart of American history. But it's the Kennedy family. In 1917 Joseph Kennedy is on his way to his first million and he has plans to found a dynasty and ensure that his baby son, Joe Junior, will be the first Catholic President of the United States.

As nursemaid to all nine Kennedy children, Nora witnesses every moment, public and private. She sees the boys coached at their father's knee to believe everything they'll ever want in life can be bought. She sees the girls trained by their mother to be good Catholic wives. World War II changes everything.

At the outbreak of war the Kennedys are living the high life in London, where Joseph Kennedy is the American ambassador. His reaction is to send the entire household back across the Atlantic to safety, but Nora, surprised by midlife love, chooses to stay in England and do her bit. Separated from her Kennedys by an ocean she nevertheless remains the warm, approachable sun around which the older children orbit: Joe, Jack, Rosemary, and in particular Kick, who throws the first spanner in the Kennedy works by marrying an English Protestant.

Laurie Graham's poignant new novel views the Kennedys from below stairs, with the humour and candour that only an ex-nursemaid dare employ.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (2 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000722883X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007228836
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laurie Graham's social comedies have been described as a cross between the writing of Victoria Wood and Alan Bennett.
A former radio script writer and journalist, Laurie has been sacked by both the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs and by a raft of glossy women's magazines.
Nothing daunted she now gives vent to her opinions on her own excellent website. http://www.lauriegraham.com
She lives in Dublin.

Product Description

Review

'Her story has the feeling of being more alive and more revealing than any biography…with energetic pace, witty dialogue and vividly drawn characters' Guardian

'Deftly mingles comedy and sorrow, producing a serious pleasure of a novel that is both poignant and entertaining.' Penny Perrick, Sunday Times

'One of Graham's undoubted strengths is the way she seamlessly blends fact and fiction. Real people, including the cream of British aristocracy, are portrayed with as much colour and verve as the fictional characters. This is an entertaining addition to the Kennedy canon, one that goes behind the public smiles to conjure up the petty jealousies and divided loyalties that plague every family. It also gives a fictional voice to two forgotten women whose troubled lives are almost completely overshadows by the Kennedy legend.' The Herald

About the Author

Laurie Graham is the author of ten novels. The Ten O'Clock Horses, was shortlisted for the Encore Award and dramatized for Radio 4, as was Perfect Meringues. Later titles are The Dress Circle, Dog Days, Glenn Miller Nights, The Future Homemakers of America, The Unfortunates, Mr Starlight, and, most recently, Gone With the Windsors.
Laurie is a former Daily Telegraph columnist and contributing editor to SHE magazine, and wrote the best-selling Parents' Survival Guide. In addition to her novels she writes original dramas and adaptations for BBC Radio. Born and raised in Leicester, Laurie now lives in Venice with her American husband.

Related websites: www.lauriegraham.com


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An everyday story of Kennedy folk... 25 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback
I didn't want this book to end. My first foray into the works of Laurie Graham (but assuredly not my last...) was a delight from start to finish - and I confess I eked out the last few pages so as to make the enjoyment last. I suppose one might describe this unusual book as a 'non-fiction novel'.
I was nineteen years old when my hero JFK was murdered and I guess it was on the cards that this story of his and his eight siblings' Boston childhood and young adulthood would grab me from page one. Nora Brennan, a young Irish immigrant to America is employed as nursemaid when millionaire bootlegger and Hollywood entrepreneur Joseph Kennedy and his young wife Rose produce the first of their brood, and she stays with the ever-increasing family for many years.
The book is told from Nora's point of view and Ms Graham captures beautifully Nora's special Irish outlook on life, her sense of humour and her wonderful turn of phrase. Nora's opinions on Mrs Kennedy alone are worth the price of admission.....
As someone who has read her fair share of books about the Kennedy family, I take my hat off to Ms Graham's meticulous research. Interestingly, the book does not dwell too much on Jack, which would, perhaps have been the obvious road to take. No, it focuses largely on Kathleen the second daughter, known to her family as 'Kick' - and on her elder sister, Rosemary. The stories of these two girls would, I think, bring a tear to the driest eye.
As I said, I really didn't want the book to end, and the ending, when it came, was poignant and bitter-sweet and the final sentence stayed with me for days.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable 14 July 2007
By Kate
Format:Paperback
This is Laurie Graham's best book to date, with a great ear for the Irish sense of humour, and turns of phrase. The Kennedys are seen through the eyes of their Irish staff, who have a less than reverential view of the embryonic American First Family. Joe and Rose Kennedy are shown to be distant to their children, even while they push all of them to succeed, with the well-known disastrous consequences. I've read many non-fiction books about the Kennedy family, and none seemed to give such a genuine insight into their collective psyche.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 26 July 2007
By E Evans
Format:Paperback
After the ghastly Gone with the Windsors this book is a terrific return to form. Nora (the narrator) is hired as nursemaid to Joe and Rose Kennedy's ever increasing brood and her irreverent comments on the family are wonderful. It's worth reading, however, for that final sad sentence which stuck with me long after I'd closed the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely entertaining - shame it had to end! 14 July 2008
Format:Paperback
Having read Future Homemakers of America and enjoying it, I thought I'd try another book by Laurie Graham and she is now a firm favourite with me.

The Importance of Being Kennedy was a fantastic read - less focus was on JFK and more on the less celebrated members of the family like Rose and Kit (Kathleen). I didn't really have much knowledge of the Kennedy family history - I was vaguely aware that there had been a number of deaths - and found this hugely entertaining, so much so that I am going to read up on them a bit more, particularly poor Rose.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book. Very interesting. 3 Sep 2011
Format:Paperback
I knew little about the famous Kennedy Family prior to reading this book, but now I can understand [and agree with] Laurie Graham's view that there was indeed a "Kennedy curse" and it was called Rose and Joe. With parents like them, it's not exactly surprising that events unfolded as they did.

If you weren't a Kennedy, you weren't anybody, and if you weren't Catholic you had a pretty slim chance of marrying into the clan. Money didn't seem to be a problem even with nine children to feed, but it certainly didn't buy happiness.

I read this book very quickly and enjoyed it very much. The narrator - Nora Brennan, a nursery-maid - is a lovable character who cares for the children more than their own parents do. Her descriptions of war-time London in the 1940s are eye-opening and really make you feel how depressing life must have been.

I love Laurie Graham's books. She has a wonderful way with dialogue and characterisation. I highly recommend this one!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a real gem of a story 18 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book,I really did not want it to end the writing was easy to read and you could be completely absorbed in the whole story. I have a very keen interest in the Kennedys and this was a very accurate insight into the early years of the family.
Funny at times and witty, the image of Rose and Joe Kennedy was very interesting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The novel that reads like a biography 2 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback
I have a bit of antipathy towards the Kennedy family for various reasons, so I didn't expect to enjoy this book half as much as I eventually did. It flew along, with warm cosy narrative that sucked you into the mid 20th century East Coast world of this startlingly dysfunctional family. In this particular version of the Kennedy story the narrator, Nora, is the lynchpin of the clan, not the matriarch Rose, and she brings a humanity to the Kennedy story that I didn't anticipate. It was definitely a two-in-the-morning read for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little masterpiece. 31 July 2008
Format:Paperback
This is the first Laurie Graham book I have read. I've always had an interest in the Kennedy story and have read many factual accounts on their family history. I thoroughly enjoyed this fictional story peppered with real life facts. I loved the other minor characters as well such as Fidelma the other nursery maid. Laurie Graham's way of using Irish turns of phrase made me smile, she really nailed the humourous put downs and didn't let Rose or Joe Kennedy off lightly. Highly recommend, I am now looking forward to reading some of Graham's other books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! History and events told through the eyes a ...
Wonderful! History and events told through the eyes a fictional character with warmth, wit and insight.One of my favourite Graham novels.
Published 12 days ago by Katkin
5.0 out of 5 stars I haven't been able to put this book down, ...
I haven't been able to put this book down, Laurie Graham describes a fascinating inside look at the Kennedy family from the point of view of their nurserymaid, who had far more to... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Acheson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A great insight to the Kennedy family loved it
Published 18 days ago by Mrs s payne
4.0 out of 5 stars An intimate behind the scenes account of the Kennedy's.
A moving account of the young Kennedy's as recalled by their Irish nursemaid who was with them from birth. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Jean Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just another JFK book
I recently wrote my undergraduate dissertation about the Kennedy family and this book was a very useful source. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jennifer Burgum
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab book
Loved this book, found myself reading it through treats at times as was so well told. Also done some research on the Kennedy family whilst reading this book & it turns out the book... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lorna Glen
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down
A wonderful contrast to the canonised versions of the Kennedy story. It is both touching and funny. A good holiday read
Published 4 months ago by Nicky Dorrian
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book from Laurie Graham
Perhaps I'm biased because Laurie Graham is my favourite author - but this is another interesting and absorbing read. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Susie F.
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read
Nora is a totally plausible and lovable mouthpiece through which the story of the Kennedy family is told. It has humour and insight and I didn't want the book to end.
Published 8 months ago by Mrs. Caroline Carne
5.0 out of 5 stars The Importance of Being Kennedy
This is the best book I have read yet about the Kennedy Family. It is about the life of a nursery maid looking after the large Kennedy Family. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Betty Souter
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