When I first spotted the cover of the new novel, THE PINK SUIT, my mind immediately flashed back to 1963 and that horrible November day in Dallas when our President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. With God’s strength and grace, our First Lady represented our country through those horrific hours dressed in her pink suit with his blood all over her for the world to see. That pink suit will forever be embedded in the memories of Americans and people around the world.
Novelist, Nicole Mary Kelby has written a story around this historical icon. THE PINK SUIT won’t fit everyone’s tastes and isn’t for history buffs, but for those willing to suspend some literary license and be entertained by her fresh writing style and storytelling, prepare to enjoy. I certainly did.
Kate is a young Irish immigrant who works in the backroom as a seamstress at Chez Ninon, a New York City boutique that caters to a posh clientele, including the First lady. She spends endless hours sewing clothes by hand for Society’s elite, including creating nearly the First Lady’s entire wardrobe from scratch. Ironically, she knows every tuck and pleat needed to create the magic of Camelot, but never comes in contact with her directly.
I love the American folklore of the Kennedy’s. I’m part Irish, Catholic and I come from the northeast. I grew up with my mother and her friends talking about Mrs. Kennedy and the clans’ every move. My mother was a seamstress and I grew up wearing simple A-line dresses she made with special attention given to the collars and always the accessories – gloves, hats and a purse.
Kelby uses an interesting technique readers will either enjoy or tire of quickly. We never meet the First Lady. She is referred to as “The Wife,” “the First Lady” and “Her Elegance.” The White House is “Maison Blanche.” It doesn’t bother me, because it stays true to who I believe Jacqueline Kennedy was. I’ve always seen her from afar. I don’t believe she was ever the kind of woman I could get close to or listen to on a talk show or hear spill her most intimate secrets with the girls on “The View.” Come to think of it, hearing her chat up Kathie Lee and Hoda would have been really disappointing.
While attending University in NYC, I worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Bookstore and she came in often but I saw her only once. It was during the Vincent Van Gogh Exhibit which her daughter was curating. She was alone. People noticed her, but no one approached her. She purchased her books and left. Consider this – she passed away twenty-years ago, and many of us are still are on the edge of our seats whenever a tape or a letter is released such as earlier this month. I believe Ms. Kelby chose wisely when she didn’t create dialogue in her novel for the First Lady.
“By Friday, it was snowing pink in the back work room. The boucle did not just shed, it came undone. Boucle means to curl in French and so the soft wool curled and snagged even after they had had the yardage dry-cleaned. …puffs of cloth floated like dandelions in the wind.”
The pink fabric took on its own personality before ever becoming a suit. I remember reporting on the Fashion Collections at Bryant Park in New York City for Fox News in the early 90’s and interviewing many designers such as Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta and Tommy Hilfiger. It never ceased to amaze me how many words they could use to describe the word red. Well, in THE PINK SUIT, pink is not really just pink. “Not merely pink but tweed of pinks – it was ripe of raspberry and sweet watermelon and cherry blossom running through an undercurrent of pink champagne. In full light it was like a vibrant wall of fuchsia growing wild in the Mexican sun.”
THE PINK SUIT was an enjoyable read, but as with much historical fiction, it left me wondering what fact was and what fiction was. Perhaps only because I’m one of those Kelby dedicates the novel to – for those of us who fell under her spell. So now I find it necessary to do some research and see what the real relationships were between Coco Chanel, Diana Vreeland and Oleg Cassini, among others. I believe there was a boutique in Manhattan, but now I want to know more. But this is just me; so actually, Miss Kelby wrote a wonderful novel wanting me, the reader to research the topic further. That’s the true success of a novelist.
THE PINK SUIT is in bookstores now.