THE EDITOR by Steven Rowley


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A debut novelist finds that his book has been acquired by Jackie O.

Rowley (Lily and the Octopus, 2016) likes a shot of fantasy with his fiction—last time it was a malignant sea creature attached to the head of a dachshund, this time it's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at her day job. A young gay writer named James Smale is sent by his agent to Doubleday to take a meeting about his book, with no advance warning that the editor who wants to acquire his manuscript is the former first lady. As this novel is already on its way to the screen, one can only hope that the first few scenes come off better on film than they do on paper—here, the brio of the premise is almost buried under the narrator's disbelief and awkwardness and flat-footed jokes, first in the meeting with Jackie, then when he goes home to share the news with his lover, Daniel. James' novel, The Quarantine, deals with a troubled mother-son relationship; as Jackie suspects, it has autobiographical roots. But James' real mother is extremely unhappy with being written about, and the two are all but estranged. Mrs. Onassis insists, in her role as editor, that he go home and deal with this, because he won't be able to fix the ending of his book until he does. So he does go home, and long-kept family secrets are spilled, and everyone gets very upset. As a result, he apparently fixes The Quarantine, though as much can't be said for The Editor.

Even if you have Jackie Kennedy—and this is a particularly sensitive and nuanced portrait of her—you still have to have a plot.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-525-53796-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2019


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