Thursday, 13 September 2007

The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham

The Importance of Being Kennedy
Laurie Graham
(Fourth Estate €??)

NINE children grew up in the Kennedy family. Before the oldest had reached middle age five had met violent ends.

Joe died in World War II, blown up trying to destroy German bombing bases. JFK and Robert were assassinated. Kathleen's plane crashed in France. Rose, the slow one, was destroyed by a lobotomy.

In Laurie Graham's novel based on the family, the narrator is their nursemaid, a sugar-coated viperous ball of malice, cooing how she loves the children, even as she lubriciously repeats every snide rumour.

The Kennedys were the original hothoused children - their mother pinned up news stories for them to discuss at meals; sent them relentlessly to classes in dancing, sailing, swimming; taught them to act as a cohort in each other's interest.

The nasty little rip of a nursemaid shows Joe as a bully and Jack as forever competing; Robert as a piocious coward; Edward as a fat little telltale, and so on. The one she values is Rose - slow, but no more than certain members of the British royal family.

I can see this book having a brief flowering, but it won't be a loved novel people will return to. Too sneery.

xxx stars

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