The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Monday, November 17, 2014

JACQUELINE BOUVIER KENNEDY ONASSIS: The Untold Story By Barbara Leaming

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by Barbara LeamingPublisher:  Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date:  October 28, 2014
Pages:  368
Genre:  Biography/American History

Book Description:  The instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller!

The untold story of how one woman’s life was changed forever in a matter of seconds by a horrific trauma.
Barbara Leaming’s extraordinary and deeply sensitive biography is the first book to document Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ brutal, lonely and valiant thirty-one year struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that followed JFK’s assassination.

Here is the woman as she has never been seen before.  In heartrending detail, we witness a struggle that unfolded at times before our own eyes, but which we failed to understand.

Leaming’s biography also makes clear the pattern of Jackie’s life as a whole. We see how a spirited young woman’s rejection of a predictable life led her to John F. Kennedy and the White House, how she sought to reconcile the conflicts of her marriage and the role she was to play, and how the trauma of her husband’s murder which left her soaked in his blood and brains led her to seek a very different kind of life from the one she’d previously sought.

A life story that has been scrutinized countless times, seen here for the first time as the serious and important story that it is. A story for our times at a moment when we as a nation need more than ever to understand the impact of trauma.

Wanda's Thoughts:  All her life Jackie had been a very proud woman and believed she should have things exactly as she wanted them. Life promised to be perfect after marrying John F Kennedy as she settled in comfortably with the Kennedy family. But two weeks after the honeymoon, perfection was only a memory. Years later, when Jackie thought about her early-married life, she remembered the velocity above everything else. “Life with him was just so fast.” JFK never stopped moving forward, but was always going on to something higher. And his health issues always shadowed their life. His back problems were very serious and always present, but the president learned to live gracefully with his pain. And then there were his sexual habits. Jackie had been told about this issue before the marriage, but failed to comprehend how serious it really was. Because of this she suffered a great deal of humiliation. Jackie was confronted with the same question over and over during the course of their marriage. “What shall I do?” 

Jackie grappled with tragedy and unbearable events all through her life and suffered from PTSD. There is a sadness that filters throughout the book as the writer takes us through that horrific day in Dallas, with the assassination of the president, and also his brother’s assassination, RFK, in 1968. It continues on with many more events, including Jackie’s marriage to Aristotle Onassis, and finally ends with her battle with lymphoma and death in 1994.

I have always been fascinated with Jacqueline Kennedy and think of her as being the epitome of elegance and grace. She experienced many devastating losses, but somehow always persevered.

The author’s style of writing is in great detail – much of it I found interesting, but much that I could’ve done without. But she certainly did her homework – the book was well researched. However, I would have liked more information on the children, Caroline and John, but that part of Jackie’s life was just briefly touched on. I also thought the last number of years in her life were rushed through.

But, all in all, this was a very informative read and I highly recommend.  My rating is 4 stars.


Barbara LeamingAbout the Author:  Barbara Leaming is a NY Times bestselling author. Three of her books have been NY Times Notable Books of the Year. Her most recent book is "Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story". Leaming’s previous book, "Churchill Defiant: Fighting On 1945-1955", received The Emery Reves Award from the International Churchill Centre. Her groundbreaking biography of America's 35th President, " Jack Kennedy: The Education of a Statesman", was the first to detail the lifelong influence of British history and culture and especially of Winston Churchill on JFK. Leaming's articles have appeared in the NY Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, the Times of London and other magazines.