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A Life

by Donald Spoto

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-24650-1
Publisher: St. Martin's

Celebrity biographer Spoto (Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman, 1997, etc.) glides smoothly across the silken surface

of the life of one of this century's most famous women.

Seldom is heard a discouraging word in this tribute. In its three sections (Miss Bouvier, Mrs. Kennedy, and Mrs. Onassis)

Spoto has set himself a difficult task: to force into the foreground of the Kennedy legend a woman who spent most of her adult

life—the post-assassination portion—seeking the shadows. Accordingly, he emphasizes her "remarkable ability as a quick sketch

artist"; her skills as a "hilarious mimic"; her grace on horseback; her failed first engagement in 1952; her broken ankle (suffered

in a game of touch football with the Kennedys); her leading role in the publication of JFK's Profiles in Courage (1956); her

devotion to culture and the arts (Spoto convincingly portrays her as a true intellectual rather than a dilettante); the "almost manic

discontent" she experienced during the years immediately after the assassination; her lucrative, laissez-faire marriage to Aristotle

Onassis; and her career as an editor, first at Viking (she resigned after a misunderstanding involving the publication of a novel

featuring Sen. Edward Kennedy), then at Doubleday, where in the 1980s, says Spoto, she "produced some of the most interesting

books of the decade." Spoto struggles to explain Jackie's apparent acceptance of JFK's many extramarital affairs (perhaps she

"simply decided that a certain profligacy was part of a man's character"), and he seems determined to establish her as an

American queen, asserting that she and JFK "adopted precisely the style of the modern British monarchy." Some of his

observations, however, are ludicrous—for instance, that her composure derives from her "alliance with horses," or that she was

the "first non-Hollywood star in American history" (Charles Lindbergh? Babe Ruth?).

Uncritical, unoriginal, sometimes downright sappy—just like most love letters. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)