JACQUELINE KENNEDY by Caroline Kennedy


Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy


The late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis speaks candidly about life in Camelot.

Just before publication of this collection of interviews with journalist/historian Arthur Schlesinger, conducted in 1964, a few leaked bits of conversation revealed that Jacqueline was content to leave the politics to her husband. This led to Kennedy’s being lambasted as a lightweight at best, a betrayer of feminism at worst. The interviews, gathered in transcribed form with elegant introductions by first daughter Caroline Kennedy and historian Michael Beschloss, indicate that she was anything but a lightweight, even if, as Beschloss wryly notes, “well-bred young women of Jacqueline’s generation were not encouraged to sound like intellectuals.” Jackie preceded the generation of feminists that would soon arise (and then became a role model, speaking frankly in Ms. and other movement publications). But the real defense comes through her words here, gathered only a few months after JFK’s assassination. They reveal a nimble if worried mind. Personally, JFK wasn’t the easiest man to live with, due in part to the sour stomach born of nerves and “those awful years campaigning…living on a milkshake and a hot dog,” as well as the terrible general health that he bore stoically in public but that caused him private agony. Jackie is shrewd in her assessments about people: Stewart Udall rose to head the Interior Department, she notes, because he delivered Arizona to JFK in the 1960 election—but then emerged as a real leader. She also provides on-the-spot commentary about unfolding world events, such as the ever-more-urgent specter of Vietnam and a divided Germany (the only ambassadors JFK “really disliked” were those from Germany and Pakistan).

All politics is local—and personal. These interviews are invaluable in providing a fly-on-the-wall view of life in the Kennedy White House—and there has never been so intimate a view from a First Lady’s perspective.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4013-2425-4
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2011


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