Tuesday, June 18, 2024



WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

PS I no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth by Paula Byrne. I checked this book out because my library recommended it. I was curious about a Kennedy biography (from 2017) that had flown under my radar. I found it was originally published in England by a British author, and so far that makes an interesting difference. Every now and again I stop and think of the American/British relationship: "Ah, so this is how we look to them!" For example, Byrne writes about the Kennedys' Catholicism in detail -- more than the average Yankee requires -- describing a child's first communion as though a daunting cult ritual. Byrne also seems surprised that wealthy American children often had nannies and went to boarding school, "like upper-class British families." Since so much of Kick's life played out in England -- she was the 28-year-old Marchioness of Hartington when she died -- I'm hoping Byrne's very Britishness will give her story an added dimension.

Kathleen, aka Kick, was JFK's younger sister and the sibling he was closest to growing up. While Ms. Byrne has yet to make this connection, I will here: the similarities between Kick and Jacqueline Bouvier are striking. Both were unconventional, rebellious and adventurous. Both annoyed their mothers mightily. Each went everywhere with a big box camera on a strap around her neck. Both were ended up working for the now-defunct Washington Herald. Both could make John F. Kennedy laugh. I'm sorry they never met, because I'm sure Jackie and Kick would have liked one another enormously.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Siracusa by Delia Ephron. A novel about a couples vacation to Sicily. Lizzie and Michael are forty-something childless New Yorkers. She's an underemployed journalist and he's a successful playwright unsuccessfully struggling with a novel. Since college, Lizzie has known Finn. He's now a restaurateur in Portland, ME, married to Taylor. He's proud of her beautiful blonde looks and cutting-edge style. Together they have a daughter, 10-year-old Snow. Taylor brings Snow everywhere. Even on this trip, where she doesn't belong. 

You just know bad shit is about to go down.

All four of the adults take turns narrating. I was impressed by how well Ephron establishes each character's individual voice and personality. The author was also brilliant in her decision to never have Snow address us directly. We only know her from the way the others see her. The child becomes kind of a spooky Rorschach test.

This is a very grown-up contemplation of marriage. How much do spouses share with their partners, how different is a couple's private reality from their public face, how a child changes the marital dynamic. Frankly, it made me grateful to be a barren spinster. Which is not to say it's not a good book. It is! It's just scary in so very many ways.


3. What will you read next? Don't know.


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