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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charmed Circle
I thought it was utterly impossible to say anything new about the Kennedys. But 10 minutes into this book, I was completely hooked. It takes the reader back to a different and more civilized time, when politics was last rancorous, when glamor was not politically incorrect, when government really was made up of the best and brightest.
Grace and Power delves deeply...
Published on May 10, 2004

versus
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Worth Purchasing Over Other Books- Read Review
I have read many books on Jackie and Jack Kennedy. This one is no different from the many others that have been published in the last three or four years. It tells us stuff we aready know and flips it. It states that some information printed in the past praises the Kennedy's too much or too little. It is true that too many books seem to either portay the couple as...
Published on May 18, 2004


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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charmed Circle, May 10, 2004
By A Customer
I thought it was utterly impossible to say anything new about the Kennedys. But 10 minutes into this book, I was completely hooked. It takes the reader back to a different and more civilized time, when politics was last rancorous, when glamor was not politically incorrect, when government really was made up of the best and brightest.
Grace and Power delves deeply into Jack and Jackie Kennedy's public, private, and psychological lives. It shows their complex interactions with each other and the people around them, and in the process demonstrates that all politics is intensely personal.
JFK's promiscuity is explored not for the sake of titillation, but rather to explain the man and to explore the complicity of the press. The portrait of Jackie is the best that's ever been written. Her love for Jack is heartbreakingly constant. Ms. Smith shows her to be highly intelligent, emotionally uncertain, and occasionally manipulative.
The research in Grace and Power is prodigious, and the author makes every sentence carry its weight in facts. The result is a narrative that barrels along and maintains a degree of suspense, and a looming sadness, despite the fact that the ending has been known for 40 years.
One of the authors who blurbed the book called it "the last--and true--word on the Kennedy White House." He had it right. What a splendid piece of work.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Camelot" re-revealed magnificently..., July 4, 2004
The essence of "Camelot" wasn't necessarily the inspiring leadership of John Kennedy (although this certainly doesn't hurt the Camelot mystique) or the seemingly serene picture of the youngest elected President and his equally youthful wife, rather it was a culture, indeed an attitude or mystique that many historians have tried to capture with heretofore moderate to little success. In this light, Sally Bedell Smith has presented her attempt at synthesizing the mystique with the well documented history of JFK's administration and has succeeded fabulously with "Grace and Power".
The perspective that Smith presents is one that many historians have missed...in a day when JFK administration books abound, Smith gives us a whole new view into the Kennedy family. Right from the beginning of this work, we delve into the personal and behavorial side of both the new President and his First Lady and see how they are in turn affected by the avalanche of the media and policy machine. JFK's full medical history (recently made public in Robert Dallek's magnificent work "An Unfinished Life") is further explained by Smith with many new nuances and she describes how these many maladies not only affected his work as President, but his family life as well. Indeed, we see JFK's covert doctor (Max Jacobson..."Dr. Feelgod") administering to Jackie as well (during periods of stress or depression) and it's this level of new information, presented not in a tawdry gossipy style, but in fair and elegant prose, that really made this work hard for me to put down. JFK's dalliances with many other women comes to be a main theme at the beginning of the story and we see how Jackie's attitude of benign acceptance at this behavior is formed over time in the White House. At the same time, Smith suceeds in presenting JFK as a loving Father and husband...further enhancing this mysterious component of JFK's behavior.
The social scene at the JFK White House is comprehensively descibed...at times offering a counter-balance with what is happening in the world and I thought this added a fullness to the Kennedy story that is usually missing from many otherwise excellent JFK works. For example we see the dinners and the guests who attended them given equal importance in the book while the emotion and stress of the Cuban Missile Crisis is distracting the President. How JFK reacts at these events (i.e. away from "work") is a fascinating new look at the Crisis and Administration as a whole and is this new information that I mentioned that should be the selling point for this work. Closing out the book, Smith eloquently descibes the before and after affects of the assasination on all the participants (old girlfriends as well as close family friends) and tries to philosophize on what the tragedy meant to each.
Historians may argue that the level of scholarship pertaining to Presidential history is lacking (although, I thought Smith did an admirable job describing the events that she did cover), but clearly the focus of this work was not a historical narrative but a genuine social/historical synthesis.
Supported by many new interviews and research, Sally Bedell Smith has added immensly to the monumental amount of literature surrounding the JFK administration and given us a unique perspective that should be used by all as an emotional target for that magnificent and tragic time. A fairly quick read (about 470 pages of readable text) and lively written, I would recommend this book very highly.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it more for the humanity than the history, December 5, 2004
All the well-known incidents of Kennedy's 1000 Days are here, but I don't think you'll find anything substantial you didn't know about The Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missle Crisis, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, etc. What makes this book special are the highly credible anecdotes about the President and First Lady, the little things that make them come to life. I enjoyed reading about President Kennedy's complicated relationship with Adlai Stevenson and his fascination with the men women found attractive, and why. I also was intrigued by Jackie's ambivalence about her role as First Lady and her role in history, which seemed to be a reflection of her ambivalence about her marriage to the fascinating, trying man she loved. The tales in this book lend texture and depth to our understanding of the Presidency that helped shaped the turbulent 1960s.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, July 15, 2004
Though I haven't read any other books about the Kennedy administration, and consequently cannot say if this one is better or worse than others on the same topic, this one caught my attention. The book appears to be well researched and documented and gives the reader a real feel for what the Kennedy White House must have been like, warts and all. I found the view to be balanced, presenting both the strengths and the personal foibles of the people involved.
The book is full of fascinating historical dichotomies; for example, it shows how the administration would deal with war with Russia over Cuba during the day, and then party at night. (One must maintain one's standards, even in the face of nuclear annihilation.) The reader also gets a real sense of tremendous responsibilities and burdens that go with living in the White House.
To digress a bit, what I really got from this book was a reminder of what politics in the USA used to be like, when politicians were more interested in doing what was best for the country, before the citizens of all political persuasions allowed it to become so bitterly and unproductively polarized. There used to be dialog between the political parties instead of ranting; there used to be pragmatic compromises and solutions instead of unyielding positions; and there used to be respect for the concept that reasonable minds can differ. Camelot, indeed.
That reminder alone makes this a worthwhile read.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Behind the scenes at our 20th century Camelot!, August 26, 2006
This review is from: Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House (Paperback)
Although Sally Bedell Smith's "Grace and Power" cannot compete with Arthur Schlesinger's "A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House" nor with Theodore Sorenson's "The Kennedy Legacy," the author makes absolutely no pretensions of doing so. Far from a political history of the Kennedy years, Ms. Smith has drawn on private letters, personal papers and 142 interviews with those close to John F. and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy to illuminate the personal lives of the martyred president and his First Lady. Her take on the couple's complex relationship, including his compulsion to take numerous lovers and her manner of coping with this problem, are mainstays here.

The book reads like an upscale Kitty Kelly bio. It is filled with sensational gossip, character sketches of glorious personalities, and fascinating anecdotes of the people and events that made the Kennedy years so exciting. Ms. Smith is an excellent raconteur who has done her research and written a nonfiction "tell all" that reads like a best-selling novel. But it is not what I would call a serious biography.

Sally Bedell Smith has also written biographies of Princess Diana and Pamela Churchill Harriman and has been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair for about ten years.

If you are a "Kennedy junkie" and want to read about the 20th century Camelot, this is a book you will love. If you are looking for excellent political history, go elsewhere. I did enjoy "Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House," and though I was an adolescent during the magical time JFK was in office, it brought back memories of the president and first lady I idolized. On the other hand, there are things I wish had never been made public. And it is all made public here!

JANA
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Worth Purchasing Over Other Books- Read Review, May 18, 2004
By A Customer
I have read many books on Jackie and Jack Kennedy. This one is no different from the many others that have been published in the last three or four years. It tells us stuff we aready know and flips it. It states that some information printed in the past praises the Kennedy's too much or too little. It is true that too many books seem to either portay the couple as extreemly sad and unattached to one another or in love w/ minor problems.
This book seeks to show a complet picture, which it does. It's just that it says nothing new, nothing making it worthy of purchasing. I recommend that you download the audio version b/c it's cheaper and much more pleasent way to read this book.
Instead of this book buy "America's Queen", "Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life,", and "Mrs Kennedy: The Missing History of the Kennedy Years:
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once there was a moment..., August 23, 2004
By 
HeyJudy "heyjudy" (East Hampton, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Anyone old enough to remember the terrible days after the assassination of President Kennedy understands that line from the play "Camelot" that has come to be associated with his Presidency. It begins, "Once there was a moment that was known as Camelot...," alluding to a magical kingdom.

One would have thought that, by now, there would have been nothing left to be said about the Kennedy presidency and the Kennedy marriage. And, perhaps, for another author, this might have been true. Yet for an author with the impressive reputation of Sally Bedell Smith, witnesses have offered information that never before has been revealed publicly.

This may be that most of the principals now are dead, long dead, and that those who survive realize that there is nobody left to harm by divulging some private memories. Equally, it may be that these survivors realize that this may be their last chances to preserve their memories for posterity.

Admittedly, some of the information about the Kennedy White House, and the deliberate way in which Jacqueline Kennedy modeled the social aspects of the administration on the French court, was shocking. After all, that court had met its quite deadly demise centuries earlier, so to ape its manners in the democratic United States appears unseemly. Accordingly, this attitude never was made known to the American public.

Similarly, it also was a shock to read that the Kennedys were consciously elitist and condescending in their perceptions of middle class America.

GRACE AND POWER also provides some new and touching details about the period immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy, and about how Mrs. Kennedy dealt with her loss.

In all, GRACE AND POWER is a worthwhile contribution to the miles of Kennedy-themed books filling the shelves of libraries everywhere.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating retelling of Camelot, May 20, 2004
By A Customer
GRACE AND POWER gives the reader the sights, sounds and textures of the Kennedy White House. William Safire called the book "a stunning new history" (his column lead me to buy the book)) and he's right.
You feel like you are right there in the Washington DC of the early 1960s, and what a very different DC it was! The Kennedys liked to work hard and play hard, and Bedell Smith shows the rivalries, friendships and goings-on of the Kennedy's inner circle.
This is truly the first book to make Jack and Jackie human, and Bedell Smith does a wonderful job of telling both the political and social sides of the First Couple.
I read the Vanity Fair excerpt and there is indeed new material here: Jackie's intimate conversations about her marriage with Dr. Frank Finnerty, her secret therapist who helped her improve her relationship with her husband; one of JFK's lovers who speaks for the first time about their two-year affair; and most importantly, details of JFK's last days and the aftermath of the assassination from the sealde (for 40 years!) papers of historian William Manchester, who authored DEATH OF A PRESIDENT.
A historical, serious and fascinating retelling of the Camelot years.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fair and enticing: interesting and easy readI just finished, July 1, 2004
I just finished Grace and Power : The Private World of the Kennedy White House by Sally Bedell Smith, and it was a terrific read from start to finish. It reads like a very long and interesting magazine article and is, hence, not gossipy, but factual and interesting. It's a well-constructed account of the days from the election to JFK's assassination; it covers both the political and social history of JFK's brief time in the White House. Thousands of sources are called upon as the author has painstakingly pieced together her story. There is much in the book that is new information about the Kennedys and their days in the White House, though not being a Kennedy aficionado, I was not aware of what was old and what was new. I felt the book was very fair and did a wonderful job of calling forth the duality of the Kennedy panache and mystique coupled with the huge burden of tragedy that seemed to be part of their heritage. I'd highly recommend this book.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grace and Power Best Yet for Sally Bedell Smith, May 14, 2004
By 
Jose A Gonzalez (Fort Lauderdale, Florida USA) - See all my reviews
This inside look at one of the twentieth century's most prominent marriages tells us something we didn't know: Jacqueline and John Kennedy were very much in love and quite adept at maintaining each other's interest under circumstances that would have defeated many of us. As a fourteen-year-old when Kennedy was elected, most of my life has been spent watching either or both of these people or reading after-the-fact efforts at reconstructing their very complex lives. Nobody has done it better than Smith. In fact, nobody else has even tried to focus so precisley on the couple's White House years with the joys and sorrows, statements in style and taste, challenging relationships of family and friendships, amid details of health problems and public policy issues. Not at any stage of the couple's lives has their marriage been examined as intimately, yet sensitively, as Smith has done here. The extraordinary amount of new research in the form of interviews and document examination is astounding. The compilation of already published materials is a handy assimilation, particularly when blended with what's new. This is an excellent book for those who demand annotations. The notes are length, etailed and well documented. The writing is smooth as glass. Without drowning in sentiment or sadness, this book shows us a remarkably happy couple, trying to live what to them was a relatively normal life while doing so in a manner that will fascinate historians and style watchers forever. Smith's talent as a biographer has never been more evident.
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Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House
Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House by Sally Bedell Smith (Paperback - May 10, 2005)
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