Thursday, March 2, 2017

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story ~ Barbara Leaming (audio) review [@StMartinsPress @barbaraleaming]

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
Thomas Dunne Books
October 28, 2014
368 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

The instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller!

The untold story of how one woman's life was changed forever in a matter of seconds by a horrific trauma.

Barbara Leaming's extraordinary and deeply sensitive biography is the first book to document Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' brutal, lonely and valiant thirty-one year struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that followed JFK's assassination.

Here is the woman as she has never been seen before. In heartrending detail, we witness a struggle that unfolded at times before our own eyes, but which we failed to understand.

Leaming's biography also makes clear the pattern of Jackie's life as a whole. We see how a spirited young woman's rejection of a predictable life led her to John F. Kennedy and the White House, how she sought to reconcile the conflicts of her marriage and the role she was to play, and how the trauma of her husband's murder which left her soaked in his blood and brains led her to seek a very different kind of life from the one she'd previously sought.

A life story that has been scrutinized countless times, seen here for the first time as the serious and important story that it is. A story for our times at a moment when we as a nation need more than ever to understand the impact of trauma.

This book was published before the author's book about John F Kennedy's sister Kick Kennedy (2016's Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter) but I am glad that I read it first. Though the two women didn't know each other and, in fact, most of Kick's story and life took place before much of Jackie's, they did know some of the same people, go to some of the same places, etc. It felt more natural to find out who those people were in Kick Kennedy and to already know the role they played in her life when they were mentioned again in Jackie.

(Though you don't need to know who they are, at all, before starting the book. Or to read one or the other first.)

I really enjoyed that this book wasn't focused on just Jackie Kenendy, First Lady. We meet her prior to all of that, when she's just a young girl in Rhode Island. If you just want a political biography, or to know her role in the life of the Kennedy's, you may not like knowing about her relationship with her father, or boys she dated, etc. It really does help form a fuller picture of who she was then and what she wanted out of life.

Which, then, only increases the contrast you're able to see between that girl, what she hoped for out of life and who she became later, what she wanted from life then.

Through letters, phone calls, conversations, media reports and records Leaming shows us how much being (right) there when her husband was assassinated affected Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Having a better understanding of all that she was going through allows you to see the different public reactions, news stories, etc in a very different light. You really can relate to her and empathize with her.

The book includes all of the major (and many of the not so major) events of Jackie Kennedy Onassis's life but the focus is more on her, her emotional and mental state, how and why she did what she did or reacted as she did. It feels like a very insightful biography and causes you to reexamine some of what you thought you knew.

I hope that this author will write more biographies of, either, women within the Kennedy family or social circle, or those of the era.

(I listened to the audio version of this and enjoyed that. I can usually get into and follow nonfiction books better this way and like having the proper pronunciations of names and places.)

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