A story narrated from the perspective of an Irish nanny, Nora Brennan, The Importance of Being Kennedy: A Novel is a fictitious work based on historic facts.
In the beginning, we meet Nora when she is hired as a nanny for the Kennedys of Brookline, Massachusetts, and in the true sense of the word, she becomes the “hand that rocked the cradles.” She describes being the mainstay in the nursery, as both Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy went about their business and social activities. She literally reared all nine Kennedy children.
Referred to by Nora as “Herself,” Rose Kennedy was portrayed as a cold woman with numerous rules and schedules, leaving little time for nurturing or compassion. Her attitudes seemed very rigid and lacking acceptance; she often turned away from those who disappointed her. Mr. Kennedy was depicted as the master mind who planned out the fates of his children and arranged and rearranged events when things went awry.
The saddest tales for me were the stories of Rosie, the “slow” child, and Kick (Kathleen), who pursued her love interests despite their acceptability to the family.
The parts I enjoyed the most were those that showed Nora’s own thoughts and feelings, and ultimately, how she managed to create a life of her own that included marriage, despite being past the usual age for a first marriage.
It was difficult to imagine which parts were fictionalized and if any parts of the story, other than what we know factually, bore any resemblance to reality. I did enjoy this glimpse of the early years in the family, before the very public events most of us know. The timeline for the story was from the early 1900s to 1950.
There were many details that did not interest me; if eliminated, the book would have been a faster and more captivating read, in my opinion. Therefore, three stars.