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Kick by Paula Byrne

Kick Kennedy - A Life of Glamour, Romance and Tragedy

Imagine growing up with such wealth that taking a flight across the country – or across the ocean to Europe - is of no more consequence than taking a bus across town. Imagine flying from America to Paris to have clothes made. Imagine being one of nine children, in a family so large that there is hardly the need for friends. Imagine believing so strongly in your religion that it figures in all of the decisions you make for all of your life. Imagine being an adult who still needs the approval from your parents for all of your actions. Imagine being a daughter of Joseph and Rose Kennedy.

Paula Byrne imagines this and more in her biography Kick, the life of Kathleen Kennedy.  One of the older children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy was the second eldest daughter, and slightly younger sister to John F Kennedy and Joseph Jr.

Kick tells the story of Kathleen’s life from a childhood in the United States to her adult years, divided between the United States and Great Britain. The Kennedy family was already wealthy and becoming more and more so. With a summer home in Hyannis Port and a winter home in Palm Beach, private schools for the children, theirs was a life carefully controlled by Joseph and Rose Kennedy. They meant for their children to become important people – especially Joseph Jr. who was being groomed for a future as President.

Most of us who grew up in 1960s probably know a fair amount about the Kennedy family. I am old enough to remember seeing the television news coverage of the assassination of JFK, and certainly over the following years heard of many more Kennedy family tragedies. But, I knew nothing about Kick Kennedy and I found her story absolutely fascinating.

Kick was a teenager when her father was appointed the American ambassador to Great Britain. She was a debutante and presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when she “came out” in 1938. She was raised in a very strict home and though she may have appeared to be a bit of a wild girl, running with a crowd of wealthy young men and women, partying and dancing to all hours, she was, it seems, always conscious of her responsibility to her parents and her strict Catholic upbringing.

Of all the Kennedys Kick was the one to truly fall in love with Britain and the British. Her mother loved the recognition she and her family received, this big family of smiling Americans were considered celebrities and were much photographed by the newspapers and magazines. Weekends were spent at the homes of the rich and famous, where they wore clothes from the best fashion houses. Trips to the south of France for holidays and much of Europe were frequently taken.

The beginning of the Second World War, of course, changed everything. Joseph Kennedy did not want war – he especially did not want his children going to war, and was very vocal about his opposition. This was not a popular stance to take in England, and it resulted in his being recalled to the United States. Kick was especially distraught at being sent back to the United States with her father. Not only had Britain become her home, she had fallen in love with Billy Cavendish, heir to Chatsworth House, and he was as much in love with her.

Kick is the biography of a smart and feisty young woman, who lived her life with joy and enthusiasm, and also a story of the years before, during and after the Second World War when there were such changes in society. And, of course, this novel tells a significant part of the story of the famous Kennedy family, and one of the first of so many tragedies that have befallen them.



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