published 2007 chapter 7
[Narrator Nora is nanny to the Kennedy children during the 1920s and 30s]
I had all the girls in matching outfits. They looked a picture, lined up ready to go to Mass on Sunday morning. Wool coats with bonnets and muffs for the cold weather and cotton print dresses in the summer, with white ankle socks and Mary Janes. But when we went to the seashore they wore any old rags, just shorts and vests, first up, best dressed, and they ran around barefoot, brown as tinkers.
When I first worked for the Kennedys we'd go to a different place every year, but once we'd tried Hyannis we took the same cottage there every year.
Mrs K's driver said, ‘Know why we're going to Hyannis again? Because Your Man was turned down for the Country Club at Cohasset.’
I said, ‘And how would you know a thing like that?’
‘Because Herself told me,’ he said, ‘when I was driving her into town. She said it was because the Cohasset doesn't take Catholics but if you ask me it's more likely they'd heard about him running whiskey. And do you know why he got in at Hyannis? Because they're not so toffee-nosed down there. They saw the colour of his money and didn't bother to enquire where he got it.’
observations: Laurie Graham is considered a comfortably middle-brow author, writing the kind of books women love to read. She has produced a fair number of novels – all highly enjoyable – she writes and researches very well, and her books looking at historical figures from the viewpoint of a minor player are particularly good. Nora tells the well-known story of the Kennedys in the first half of the 20th century in a refreshing, entertaining and very funny way, and she does the same with the abdication of Edward VIII in Gone with the Windsors. (His own version here and here.)
Her touch with history is absolutely sure, she makes her characters very real, and the reader can get completely carried along in her stories. She’s unlikely to win the Booker Prize, but I feel that if she were a man she’d be considered a lot more seriously.
Links on the blog: This book has featured before, with a lovely picture of debutantes. JFK’s wedding was here. The Boston family here summered in Maine. History (in this case Alexander the Great) related by a minor player. The important issue of beach clothes in this entry.
Today is a Bank Holiday in the UK, and Memorial Day in the USA. One would be hoping for sunshine, and the real start of the summer. I hope it’s like that somewhere.
The picture of the Kennedys (minus Edward, who hadn’t yet been born) was taken in Hyannis Port in 1931. It is from the John F Kennedy Presidential Library. JFK is top left.