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The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee

by Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-06-236498-2
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

A story of sisterhood that reveals how all the fortune and fame in the world can’t assuage sibling rivalry.

With the exception of their parents’ divorce, it’s hard to imagine a more charmed youth than that of young Jacqueline and Lee Bouvier. These two remarkable women, who would go on to become first lady to President John F. Kennedy and princess to Prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill, had seemingly every possible advantage. However, Vanity Fair vets Kashner and Shoenberger (co-authors: Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century, 2010, etc.) write, the sisters’ relationship was a lifelong balance of love and envy. Case in point: Jackie would go on to marry Aristotle Onassis, Lee’s former lover. With entirely opposite personalities—Lee was outgoing and dramatic, Jackie demur and shy—each seemingly wound up with what would have been the other’s ideal life. In this well-researched dual biography, the authors describe how that fate would both haunt and help them. But while the story is essentially about the sisters, the narrative favors Lee’s perspective, showcasing the often misunderstood socialite’s battle with wanting to be more than just a pretty face. Of course, it was hard to shake that label given the philosophy the girls’ father—failed Wall Street stock broker and alcoholic John Vernou Bouvier III—ingrained in them: “Style…is not a function of how rich you are or even who you are. Style is more a habit of mind that puts quality before quantity, noble struggle before mere achievement, honor before opulence. It’s what you are….It’s what makes you a Bouvier.” Living up to such an ideal would become Lee’s Achilles heel, and her illustrious love life often overshadowed her attempts at self-actualization. Not surprisingly, the supporting casts—Truman Capote, Peter Beard et al.—in the lives of the Bouvier sisters were just as flawed and fascinating.

Suffice it to say, more than 50 years on, explorations of the truths and fictions of Camelot continue to mesmerize.