A biography of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929–1994) focusing on a pivotal year in her life, 1975.
Former Boston Globe reporter and editor Cassidy (Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born, 2006) sets out to prove that Onassis, though arguably a socialite, was no dilettante—that her seemingly sudden decision to immerse herself in the worlds of literature and historical preservation was born of longstanding interest and expertise in both. The author uses 1975, the year in which Onassis was widowed for the second time, to examine this transformation from wife to activist and editor. Rather than creating focus, though, this lens often refracts. Cassidy includes detailed biographical information from earlier parts of her subject’s life in order to contextualize the choices she made during this pivotal year. Therefore, though that single year organizes the book, each of its significant events—her second husband’s death, her work as a consulting editor for Viking, her rejection of the political posts offered to her—is examined broadly, not deeply. For example, the chapter about her involvement in the campaign to maintain Grand Central Station’s status as a landmark site is as much about her restoration of the White House and her involvement in the preservation of Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. Throughout, Cassidy is highly sympathetic to Onassis. She quotes Sally Quinn, a Washington Post writer who criticized Onassis in the fall of 1975 (“she is going literary-journalistic because…that’s where the glamour is, and the action”) and promptly dismisses her: “Quinn used the journalistic disguise of her own thoughts by inserting what ‘skeptics’ thought.” Cassidy offers no evidence for this assertion, leaving readers unable to determine whether or not Quinn was actually voicing a common criticism of the time.
A well-researched but limited account of a year in the life of Jackie O.