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The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

by Jan Pottker

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-26607-3
Publisher: St. Martin's

Bloated, stumbling account of Janet Auchincloss, her family, and the social world that produced Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

It is certainly curious that for all of America’s obsession with its de facto queen, Jackie Kennedy, there has been so little said of the Queen Mother. This could be attributed to Janet Auchincloss’s social set, which shunned vulgar publicity, but today’s curious reader need no longer suffer in ignorance; Pottker (Crisis in Candyland, 1995) has dragged the woman, warts and all, into the spotlight. With the assistance of Auchincloss’s two sons and countless relatives and staff, Pottker moves from the roots of the Lee and Auchincloss families through the lives of Janet and Hughdie and the world that sheltered Jackie until she married Jack. The work is remarkably detailed—and surprisingly drear. Although for the most part (following a deadly pair of opening chapters), the story moves along at a steady clip, the author has hobbled the narrative with over-reporting, reducing her dramatic cast of characters—Black Jack Bouvier, iron-willed Janet, mercurial Jack and Jackie—to a collection of minutiae. From the very beginning, the author lacks discernment; it’s as if she determined to include every detail recorded in her research, from how Janet wore her stockings to the style of young Jackie’s headboards (they had cane inserts). Equal space is accorded to the story of Jackie’s second miscarriage and an account of the decor of Janet Jr.’s debutante ball. This is an odd editorial choice, but the author’s judgment moves from questionable to shocking when she informs us that immediately following JFK’s assassination, Jackie “used the bathroom and noticed, again, that she had her period.” Although Pottker has succeeded in evoking the wealth and lifestyle of her subjects, she has done little to bring their relationship to life.

Well-researched, but vulgar and plodding.