The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby

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The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A fictional look at one small aspect of the assassination of President Kennedy. Despite the subject it's a light and easy read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Virago
ISBN: 978-1844089734

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In November 1963 the world was shocked by the assassination of President John F Kennedy, but the picture which brought home to us the horror of what had happened was not of JFK but of his wife in the iconic pink suit, soaked with her husband's blood. Let them see what they have done, she said. I've always assumed that the suit was new for the occasion - but it had a back story too and it's told in The Pink Suit, a work of historical fiction based on facts.

It wasn't considered politically appropriate for the wife of the President of the United States to wear couture clothes from France. It was an insult to the American clothing industry - but The Wife was very fussy about her clothes and a way had to be found around this problem and it was done through Chez Ninon, an exclusive Manhattan atelier. They produced much of Mrs Kennedy's wardrobe. Occasionally the clothes were shameless copies of the work of French couturiers, but the pink suit was special. To start with it wasn't pink, it was raspberry - or so Coco Chanel insisted and this time Chez Ninon were prepared to pay for the original toile to make up the suit.

Kate was a seamstress at Chez Ninon and a particularly talented one. When clothes were made for The Wife she used the toile to make a copy for her niece, but in a different material. Despite the long hours spent at Chez Ninon, sewing was Kate's life. There was a relationship with the local butcher - Patrick Harris - but it's hard to avoid the thought that Kate is more committed to The Wife. She and the wife both have roots in the west of Ireland, but despite the fact that Kate makes the clothes there's no interaction. Kate feels a connection but it's doubtful whether The Wife even knows that she exists.

I sew. Not to Kate's standard or with her degree of commitment but I know enough to understand that Nicole Mary Kelby knows the business and understands the stresses and rewards. She knows fashion and her writing is engaging on the subject. The plot is an easy read, driven forward mostly by a sense of impending doom - it's rather like reading about an exciting cruise on the Titanic. I read the book over a couple of days when it was warm enough to sit in the garden - and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending me a review copy.

If you're interested in JFK, we've selected some of the best books on the subject.

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