IT’S not often that when a reviewer states that the author has down meticulous research that the statement can be so substantiated, but in the case of KICK there are over 160 pages devoted to sources. That really is meticulous. It was only made possible when the personal documents and papers of the Kennedy family in the States were released. Taking gleeful possession of such riches, wellknown biographer, Paula Byrne, proceeded to trace the short, but interesting, life of Kathleen Kennedy (known as Kick), the loved sister of JFK. It makes an enthralling read. Very detailed, as the notes attest, but well worth following. While learning about this vivacious second daughter of Joe and Rose Kennedy, we also learn more about Jack’s early life, which is equally fascinating. They were devoted to each other, a fact which becomes obvious when they were very young, for, although, Jack was often ill, he always thought first of Kick and how he could be with her, or to help her. This support was really necessary later in life, when Kick fell in love with an English, protestant, aristocrat, the heir to the Chatsworth estate, and the title Duke of Devonshire. The Cavendish family not only owned Chatsworth, but they also owned “Lismore castle in Ireland, Hardwick house also in Devonshire, Bolton Abbey Hall in Yorkshire, and Compton Place by the sea at Eastbourne in Sussex.” Devonshire House in London had been sold after the first World War, but they “still had a townhouse in Belgravia.” Good Heavens!
After years of loving each other at a distance, Billy and Kick planned to marry, but their different religious beliefs proved an almost impossible obstacle. How this was solved, how short their marriage proved, tragically, to be, and how Kick’s life ended at the age of twenty eight, keeps the enthralled reader turning page after page. There was a scandal attached to Kick’s last months, which neither the Kennedy family nor the Devonshire’s, wished to make public. Her life was therefore almost written out of official histories. Thanks to Paula Byrne, herself descended from the Irish Kennedy family, we can now learn of those last passionate months, and grieve when they ended. Most readers will agree with the words on her tombstone, proving the love in which she was regarded by her wide circle of relatives and friends, “Joy she gave. Joy she has found.”
KICK by PAULA BYRNE PUBLISHED by WILLIAM COLLINS for a recommended $29.99