I took this book out of the library on the strength of a recommendation for basically any book by Laurie Graham from a member of my reading group. We had been reading The Unfortunates by the same author, and I enjoyed it a lot, so I just took the next book on the shelf.
The book is a fictional account of the childhood and young adulthood of the Kennedy family, told from the perspective of their nanny Nora Brennan. I knew almost nothing about JFK until I read this book – I knew he’d been president at some point and I knew he had been shot and that was about it.
The wonderful thing about Laurie Graham is that whilst you absorb so much information about the period in which her books are set, you never feel that the characters and plot are just vehicles for a historical lecture. Equally, it would be impossible to lift the characters from their historical context: the vibrant, wholly believable characters are interwoven with the period and the location.
For anyone who knows the history of the Kennedy family, I doubt this book provides many surprises. For me, as a total newcomer to the legend, it is cleverly written with carefully-placed hints about twists and surprises which give credence to the memoir style. From what I can make out, Nora Brennan is purely Graham’s creation but at times I had to remind myself of that because she is so realistically written.
As an academic treatise on the early life of John F. Kennedy this book is probably useless; it lacks references, facts, credentials and objectivity. But as a novel, it is wonderful. You can buy it here, or find it at the library.