“The Summer I Met Jack” by Michelle Gable

Genre:         Women’s FictionJack
Publisher:    St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date:   May 29, 2018

The book’s blurb reads, “Based on a real story – in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America.”  The family is the Kennedys.  Of course, the Jack in the title is a young Jack Kennedy.  I was disappointed in this book, but it may be my own fault.  I thought I was reading historical fiction and not women’s fiction.  The story reads close to a romance novel, which is a genre I do not care for.   I did read and like the “The Paris Apartment,” also by Michelle Gable.  In “Apartment,” Gable wrote a similar type of book.  She wove together a tale of romance and mystery, to become a past and present page-turner.   However, I went into that book knowing what I was about to read.

This book is based on the true events from the life of American socialite Alicia Corning Clark, married to Alfred Corning Clark who was a Singer Sewing Machine heir.   We first meet Alicia soon after she leaves Poland in the late 1940s and arrives in the United States as a displaced person.    To begin fresh, she changes her name from Barbara Kopczynska to Alica Darr (and then, by marriage, to Alicia Corning Clark).”  Corning Clark lived a life that should have been a movie.  She had more lives than a cat.  In Poland, she was a Jewish girl hidden in a convent to escape the Nazis.   In the United States, she was a Roman Catholic maid, an aspiring artist, a call girl, and a Hollywood movie star.  She was also a woman whom J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedys to keep her affair with JFK, and their possible love child, out of the headlines.  An interesting tidbit for me is that I once again was able to read about a Singer Sewing Machine heir.  I first read about Pairs Singer in the historical fiction “Isadora” by Amelia Gray.  Alfred Corning Clark’s father was partners with Paris’ father, Isaac Singer.   In real life, it was Corning Clark who changed Darr into a wealthy, respectable society woman.  Both men lived a life filled with scandals.  Who knew there is so much dirt revolving around the Singers?  Sort of like the Kennedys.

Darr’s real-life story is one reason why I did not give up on the book.  That and the Kennedys.  My interest was constantly re-sparked: Was Rose Kennedy really an odd duck and a cold mother?  Was Joe Sr. really a Nazi sympathizer?  Was Bobby really a dislikable man?  Not to mention, the family connections to the mafia, or the rumor that they had Marilyn Monroe being murdered before she could expose that she was sleeping with both Bobby and Jack.  (I did chuckle when reading that Jackie put a poster of Monroe over Jack’s bed.  Wonder if that was true?)  And so on and so forth with all the Kennedy rumors.

Gable lists extensive research for this novel in her end-notes, which is always a plus.   Her most moving writing moments are when she is describing JFK’s painful long suffering due to being born with Addison’s disease, a condition that is life-threatening when the adrenal glands fail to manufacture adequate amounts of essential hormones.  It was imperative to the Kennedys that Jack presents an image of robust good health. Naturally, they denied his medical condition, as well as playing down his back problems due to a degenerative disc disease.   What is it about the Kennedy clan that still pulls us in?  Whatever it is, it helped this reviewer overlook the story’s melodrama, the Hollywood celebrity name-dropping, and the exotic romance settings to find the historical fiction hidden inside.  I am glad that I did.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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