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469 of 488 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MOVING BEYOND WORDS - 5 STARS !!!!
I simply cannot put into words the beauty of this book, audio, and project that was put together by Caroline Kennedy and historian Michael Beschloss, but of course you have to consider what they are building upon. It is January 1964; a 34 year old young widow who has captivated America with her personal courage was forced by her husband's death to leave what had become...
Published on September 14, 2011 by Richad of Connecticut

versus
119 of 141 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No longer clueless
Am I utterly clueless? I assumed that the Kennedy interviews on tape would be what I would hear. Instead, a disembodied voice, sounding very digitally generated, is reading the words Jackie has spoken on tape..Why aren't I listening to the original tapes? It is a stunning let down. I would happily have paid more for the goods.

I have called Kindle and they were...
Published on September 16, 2011 by Mary A.


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469 of 488 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MOVING BEYOND WORDS - 5 STARS !!!!, September 14, 2011
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This review is from: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hardcover)
I simply cannot put into words the beauty of this book, audio, and project that was put together by Caroline Kennedy and historian Michael Beschloss, but of course you have to consider what they are building upon. It is January 1964; a 34 year old young widow who has captivated America with her personal courage was forced by her husband's death to leave what had become her home, the White House. She must endure the long winter. She is alone, without husband, and she has 2 young children who have been devastated as well by their father's death. She also has to be going through what any of us who have been divorced go through, the feeling of abandonment, and completely devoid of being rooted in reality because the reality is too harsh to contemplate.

At this moment less than 4 months into the grieving process, she agrees with Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger to go through a series of interviews to be recorded for history. The historian had taken a leave from Harvard to become an assistant to JFK in the White House. He was considered the egghead of the entourage that had followed the President. There was one caveat to the agreement with Schlesinger and the President's widow. These recordings would not be released until 50 years after the audio sessions were held, and Jackie would have editorial control over any revisions she wanted to make.

Thus in January 2004, the widow and the historian began what became 7 ˝ hours of recordings. The sessions were held in the Georgetown home that Jackie, Caroline, and John Jr. moved into several weeks after the assassination. The tapes are extraordinary. They have been audio enhanced for quality. You can actually hear things in the background like Jackie lighting up a cigarette, or putting ice into a drink. The emotionality is all there. For those of us who may have thought we understood the first lady, or her relationship to the 35th President, we need to rethink our ideas based on this fascinating new material.

Organization of the Material

What we are looking at her is really a project as opposed to a book or a cd recording. You will receive a slip case which will contain an audio package with cd's; each cd will represent one of the seven interviews conducted by the first lady. It is elegantly packaged, and even the choice of colors (Presidential blue) is exquisite. In the slipcase is a book which contains the transcripts of the audio cd recordings. It is 349 pages of narrative, and whatever you do; don't forget to look at the picture of the President and Jacqueline sitting in the backseat of the Lincoln in Dallas on page 350-351. I have never seen this picture before. She is absolutely radiant and in love with her prince.

Since nowhere in the review materials does anyone mention the contents of the recordings, I will give you a brief synopsis of them so you can judge if this is the type of material you would be interested in:

RECORDING I

The First Lady covers then Senator Kennedy's political aspirations. This entire session is devoted to the 1950's. The period preceding JFK's ascension to the White House is chronicled. She also discusses the future President's attempt to win the Vice Presidential nomination in 1956 during the Stevenson convention. Early married life and social life in Georgetown, Washington is also covered.

RECORDING II

We all know that the President was a prolific reader, some say he read at a 1200 word per minute reading speed. Jackie tells us what he liked to read, and then she goes into his opinions of other leaders past and present. These include Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Charles DE Gaulle. She also has some interesting words to say about the President's father Joseph P. Kennedy, and she is surprisingly candid about the JFK - RFK relationship. This is the recording which also tells us the story of the 1960 election.

RECORDING III

It is here that the conversations go into the relationship between JFK and United States Senator Joseph McCarthy. You will be surprised at some of the things she has to say. She covers the primaries that took place during the 1960 campaign. How did the President pick LBJ as his running mate; what did she think of the debates between Kennedy and Nixon? Election Day is thoroughly chronicled.

RECORDING IV

JFK was the first President born in the 20th century, and the youngest elected President ever to serve, which is still true. His transition from Senator to President was crucial. How was it done? You will now understand her viewpoint. What were the youthful President's plans for the Presidency and what about the early White House daily life which included the social life and his back problems? The inaugural address is highlighted.

RECORDING V

Here we have the Cuban Revolution, and the Bay of Pigs which completely redefined his Presidency. What is uniquely talked about however are the Presidential visits to Canada and France where she charms De Gaulle?

RECORDING VI

Mrs. Kennedy with emotion describes the Cuban Missile Crisis from her vantage point. Perhaps the most amazing and insightful statement is made in the recordings right here. Jackie tells us that during the darkest moments of the crisis when the missiles were ready for launch, that she tells her husband, that she would rather stay in the White House with her children and die with you, then go on living without you.

The First Lady also tells us about the Berlin Crisis, disarmament, and Civil Rights, but everything pales in comparison to Cuba where we were all in jeopardy and so very close to perishing as a civilization.

RECORDING VII

The recordings are summed up with discussions of JFK's trip to India. We then understand what the President thought about Viet Nam which became the dominate domestic issue of the next ten years. It also threatened to rip apart the social fabric of our country. Mrs. Kennedy talks about her children and the plans for the second term, and the coming campaign.

The PROJECT Passes from MOTHER to DAUGHTER

The First Lady only granted 3 interviews after the young President died. One was to Theodore White, a fabulous writer who published his interview in Life Magazine shortly after JFK's death. It is here that the President and his Administration were compared to Camelot and King Arthur. Another series of interviews were given to author William Manchester who wrote the best seller "Death of a President", the official chronicle of the assassination, although there were disagreements with the Kennedy family. These tapes that we now have are the only other interviews granted.

Upon Jackie's death in 1994, the tapes of the interviews which were stored in a vault at the Kennedy Library were opened and revealed to Caroline. She made the decision that the tapes would eventually be made available to the public, and to history. Her biggest decision was whether or not to edit the tapes. How interesting that she chose to leave them alone - no revisions, which was her right to do.

The only revisions that were made were in the interest of clarification. You know how sometimes when you transcribe spoken language to written language; it can look very awkward, even unintelligible. Those are the only revisions that were made.

CONCLUSION

This is an elegant book, it is beautiful, and it is historically meaningful and important. The tapes and the voice will have meaning for all of us that were alive during this period of history. For those being exposed to the life of the slain President, you might get a little bit of the feeling of what the rest of us share. Historian Richard Beschloss in the first sentence of his Introduction to the book says, "It is her turn to speak". How appropriate. Jackie in the tapes says, "He is free and we must live". It says it all, doesn't it?

During this period that Caroline Kennedy shepherded the project, the President's sole surviving sibling asked herself, when does someone no longer belong to you, but history. With the publication of this book and the accompanying tapes we now have our answer, and we are all better off for it. Thank you for reading this review.

Richard Stoyeck

Post Script:

I have attempted to be objective in my understanding of both the book and the recordings, but you must understand the hold that this man had on those of us that lived through his administration regardless of our ages. I was once caught in a building in the late 1980's where the fire alarms went off and found myself on the elevator alone with Larry O'Brien, the President's campaign director during the run for the presidency. We began a conversation, and I asked what he was really like? O'Brien turned inward, thought for a moment, and then began. He said "You must understand, I left my family for him during the 1950's. I followed him everywhere. He had that kind of hold on people." This book and accompanying recordings will have an impact on the historical analysis of JFK's life and legacy. Get it today.
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242 of 260 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, intimate portrait of a First Lady through her own words: a treasure!, September 14, 2011
By 
Vince Palamara (South Park/Bethel Park, PA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hardcover)
A preliminary review: this book is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of one of the greatest First Ladies in our nation's history (in my opinion, only Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Ford are her rivals). Jacqueline Kennedy comes to life in these pages, brilliantly edited and commented by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss. After reading so many "tell all" Jackie books that claim to have the "inside word", it is refreshing to have Jackie herself provide the first person account, not some journalist with 'sources'. There are many treasures and insights to be found in these pages, told in an intimate, straightforward fashion. As someone who has read countless books pertaining to President and Mrs. Kennedy, I thought nothing could surprise me at this late juncture. I was wrong. Caroline Kennedy has done us all a great service in providing the actual audio recordings from her mother's conversations with JFK aide Arthur Schlesinger, nobly transcribed and commentated by Beschloss.

"Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy" is required reading for all Kennedy fanatics and students of the First Lady. Again, this is merely a humble preliminary review, but, from what I have read and seen so far, I am greatly impressed. Highly recommended.
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102 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Day Well Spent, September 15, 2011
This review is from: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hardcover)
After spending the day listening to the tapes, mesmerized and unable to do little else, I have come away stunned and in awe. We have always had a somewhat packaged view of the duties of First Lady. That Mrs. Kennedy was able to speak at all so soon after the tragedy, and so succinctly in regards to her grasp on history, is a testament to her strength of character. Having read many books written about those years, some brilliant and some terrible, they are all given to surmising what the President must have felt, or how he came to certain conclusions. We now have a much clearer picture of the man. He accepted challenges and expected those around him to respond in kind. He was not petty, or small, not self conscious, or self aggrandizing. He was given to tremendous curiosity, loved journalism, would have written great books and would have steered the ship of state to a safer harbor. Much is voiced about power, what it does to people, who is attracted by the trappings and neglects the work, who becomes better for it and who loses their way. Jacqueline Kennedy did not deserve to be maligned. She should be remembered for living by three simple tenets: courage, loyalty and duty. These tapes are a great gift to the world.
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but not worth putting in a vault for decades, September 18, 2011
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This review is from: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hardcover)
When I heard rumors in the sixties that Mrs. Kennedy had made this recording, I assumed it would be full of fascinating material and I was sorry that I wouldn't live long enough to hear it. At that time, it was reported it would be vaulted until her last grandchild was dead for fifty years or something like that. I can't recall exactly.

So, fifty years later I got to hear it. It was delightful to hear her voice and I appreciated her candor. I remember she was always guarded and never at all candid during her public life. But, in these tapes, she gave little bits of gossip like what her husband really thought of this one and that one. How Lady Bird Johnson was like one of Lyndon's trained bird dogs and took out a notebook, wrote down little bits of information that Lyndon could later use.

Nothing said on the tapes needed to be vaulted. It was released at a good time, however. Everyone spoken of is dead so no one would likely to be offended but perhaps a few distant relatives or a son or daughter here and there. But even that's doubtful.

If you're under sixty, you'll very likely have no idea who she's talking about unless you know history. Since I knew the names and lived through the time, I had a special interest. Younger people might not respond to the tapes.

Are the recordings historically relevant? Probably not. They do provide the feelings the president had at certain times that might not otherwise be known.

Jackie said that Jack would send her away when she got weary of the White House. She thought that was because he was caring and thoughtful. Of course, we now know it was because he wanted to have one of his many trysts in the family quarters and needed her out of there. Did she address that on the tapes? No. Did she know it? Who knows. She probably did.

I'm not sure what the purpose of the tapes were other than to write the words the president couldn't write because of his assassination. She loved history and I think she wanted this to be a historical record and to some extent, it is.

To be sure, this is a worthwhile project and it's a rich listening experience. To hear it in her own voice is a delight. She talks so much more smarter than we thought she was at the time. She's a joy to listen to. And, of course, all first ladies have marvelous stories to tell. Hers were, to be sure, fascinating.

While there are no real smoking guns and while much is left out, this is a great listening experience and I'm glad it was made public at this time.

-- Susanna K. Hutcheson
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jackie was my icon, September 15, 2011
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This review is from: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hardcover)
I was a teenager when the Kennedy family entered the White House. Jackie was my icon. I was a Jackie groupie. I wanted to be like her, look like her, and most of all wanted to meet her and talk with her. Of course a poor child on welfare would never be able to even come near the First Lady of the United States. Still I adored her, bought her books and when her face was on a magazine I bought it. I was there when JFK returned to Milwaukee. I did my best to look like her and waved at the President. Then I grew up, but Jackie was still my icon. I kept hoping I could meet her and talk to her. That would never be, but a dream would never die. When amazon sent me an email about this book, I bought it immediately. What I can say is, Thank you, Hyperion Books and Caroline Kennedy. You have shared with this old lady the real person of Jacqueline Kennedy. This book is the real person and as I listen to the conversation, I can pretend I am there listening to her. It is almost a dream come true for me. I listen and I see her as a person. Thank you, so much for letting me share this remarkable woman. The interview is revealing, informative, and gives an insight into the era and the woman, Jacqueline Kennedy. She is a complicated yet paradoxically simply woman of her time.Bear River Spirit (One)
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119 of 141 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No longer clueless, September 16, 2011
By 
Mary A. (Lexington, Kentucky) - See all my reviews
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Am I utterly clueless? I assumed that the Kennedy interviews on tape would be what I would hear. Instead, a disembodied voice, sounding very digitally generated, is reading the words Jackie has spoken on tape..Why aren't I listening to the original tapes? It is a stunning let down. I would happily have paid more for the goods.

I have called Kindle and they were quick to cancel my Kindle edition of this book. I found that the only way to get the original tapes was to buy the hard copy, which at about $33 is a good deal. However, one reason i treasure my Kindle so much is because at 82, I almost always need to enlarge the print and I am sure the hard copy will be too difficult to read. But, I WILL have the tapes, the originals, so that's a trade-off I'm willing to make.
In this age of high tech, I do not understand why Kindle isn't able to do this directly, with no hard copy involved, with, of course, an increase in the Kindle price. So, in spite of the excellent service I received, and as much as i would like to, i can't improve on the three star rating I gave this Kindle book in the first place. It simply falls short, for whatever reason.
All this being said, Kindle does get points for their customer service. They are almost up there with Apple, the one by which all others are measured.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, September 21, 2011
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This review is from: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hardcover)
I was only 8 years old when Jack Kennedy died but I would have to say that was the day I, and America, lost our innocence. I have been fascinated by Jackie ever since I watched her stand tall (how she was even upright I don't know), walk proudly, and hold her children with tears sometimes streaming down her face. While most of the nation was heartbroken, she showed us how to mourn and kept us together. I wanted her for a mother, a friend, a role model. I watched her over the years, read all the books, and cried again when she died too young, and again when her precious John was killed in the plane crash. I always knew there was much more to Jackie than we were privy to, and I feel like everything I instinctively knew about this woman as a young girl was validated by the book and the tapes. She is endearing, elegant, pleasing, insightful and proves herself to be an apt chronicler of her husband's presidency and the time of Camelot. Many may scoff at Jackie admirers, but it is not a jetsetter's life we followed and wanted to know. We ADMIRED her, and knew there was reason to. Thank you Caroline.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wealth of information about him, about her, about us, October 1, 2011
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This review is from: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hardcover)
We learn little details that humanize a legendary figure -- he changed into his pj's every day for his nap, he kept rubber duckies along his bathtub so he could hold John's attention as he soaked in his tub, he embarrassed his wife by barging into her bedroom without knocking, thereby treating Harry S Truman to the sight of the new First Lady in a nightie with one of her legs straight up in the air (she was doing post-cesarean exercises after having given birth to John).

We learn what touched our President's heart -- that laborers earn a living wage, that Central and South America feel like real players on this continent and on the world stage.

We learn about how he governed. JFK had serious doubts about Dean Rusk and was going to dump him in 1964. Imagine the impact that would have had on Vietnam and Laos! Bobby was his closest adviser, Sarge Shriver was an important help in forming the Cabinet, but JFK was the architect of his own Presidency. He was the one in charge.

We learn how she loved him! She was devoted to preserving his memory in these tapes, to sharing the "idealist without illusions" that she knew with history. She was so proud of being an asset to him, so in awe of his intellect, so moved by how much he loved their children.

She could be a bitch, yes. She's unsparing with Lady Bird Johnson, Eunice Shriver, her mother-in-law, Tish Baldridge ... In fairness, I think she realized these observations could hurt feelings and that's why the tapes were sealed.

We learn how hard it was to BE her. She mentions being unable to get out of bed, unable to stop crying. Post-partum depression? The pressures of campaigning and then being First Lady? The strain of being married to a complicated man who "liked girls?" We'll never know. There are some things she would never share with us.

And, like The Help, which is set at about the same time, we learn important things about our recent past. Washwomen in the south were earning 66˘/hour. When the Kennedys visited Latin America, she was actually PRAISED for, while visiting an orphanage, permitting non-white children to kiss her. As she says, "Isn't that sad?" Yes, it is, and it wasn't that long ago.

I've only skimmed the surface. Whether you're interested in an intimate look at Camelot, an icon in her own words, or a snapshot of how we were as a country and a culture during the days of Mad Men, you will enjoy these historic conversations.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise and one gripe, September 15, 2011
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This review is from: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hardcover)
Having recently read and reviewed Greg Lawrence's book Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, I was eager to acquire and hear these interviews. I'm not sure how much new light they will ultimately shed upon the historical record of Kennedy's presidency, but they surely will confirm that the Kennedys' marriage was more than a mere public display; there is much evidence here of a deep marital intimacy and that the two iconic figures genuinely respected and relied on one another on many levels. It's also clear that Jackie's "thinking life" did not begin decades later with her career in publishing. Jackie's wispy voice is mesmerizing (as anyone who's watched the White House tour can attest). The interviews are easier to listen to than to read, but the book is nice to have for quick reference. Michael Beschloss's generous but concise annotations provide helpful context for forgotten controversies and quick profiles of secondary as well as major players. The book also includes a lot of rare photographs from the Kennedy White House years. Far from a souvenir companion to the audio recordings, the book is substantial, well-organized, and useful. This is truly a "two for the price of one" product.

Now for my gripe. The audio CDs come in a rather flimsy sleeve. When my copy arrived in the mail, all the disks had fallen out of their sleeve and were rattling around in the case. If this happens to you, check the disks carefully for scratches. (Mine seem to play okay). Also, it was very frustrating trying to transfer the interviews to my iPad so that they would play in sequence (I spent over an hour renaming the tracks.) Why don't audiobook publishers ever think of this?
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable as history --- and as therapy, September 18, 2011
This review is from: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hardcover)
Put yourself in her place.

Your husband was murdered --- in public, sitting right next to you --- just four months ago. You want to go off in a corner and grieve, but he was America's greatest star and you are the most celebrated woman in the world; privacy is out of the question. Now someone comes to your house and asks you to describe what it was like to be the woman you'll never be again

Courage? Above and beyond.

But also, I think, therapy. The talking cure. Arthur Schlesinger, a noted historian and close family friend, gets Jacqueline Kennedy reminiscing about the old times, the good times, the campaigns and dinners and trips. And she responds, knowing that he'll never contradict her, never breach the boundaries of this walk down memory lane --- that is, he'll never ask her what happened in Dallas and what it was really like to be married to John F. Kennedy.

And so she talks. In a breathy voice that's a second cousin to the whispery speech of her husband's lover, Marilyn Monroe, she weaves a riveting tale. I could not have done what Jacqueline Kennedy did here --- render, without tears, the tale of a courtship, marriage and a presidency.

She claims she has no opinions --- she was a Japanese wife, she says, who adopted her husband's views --- but in fact, she has many:

Martin Luther King: "I just can't see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man's terrible....[John F. Kennedy] told me of a tape that the FBI had of Martin Luther King when he was here for the freedom march. And he said this with no bitterness or anything, how he was calling up all these girls and arranging for a party of men and women, I mean, sort of an orgy in the hotel, and everything."

Charles DeGaulle, French general and president: "That egomaniac."

Lady Bird Johnson: "She was sort of like a trained hunting dog."

Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Charlatan is an unfair word..."

Adlai Stevenson, the former Democratic presidential nominee: "Violently liberal women in politics" preferred hin because they "were scared of sex."

Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister of India: "She is a real prune - bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman."

André Malraux, the French novelist: "the most fascinating man I've ever talked to.

John F. Kennedy: close to a perfect husband. At the height of the Cuban missile crisis, when America had good reason to fear atomic war, she told him: "If anything happens, we're all going to stay right here with you. I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too -- than live without you."

So while 54 million Americans watched her televised tour of the White House, only one mattered: "Suddenly, everything that'd been a liability before -- your hair, that you spoke French, that you didn't just adore to campaign, and you didn't bake bread with flour up to your arms -- you know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics. All of that changed. I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together that he could be proud of me then. Because it made him so happy -- it made me so happy."

Those tapes were made 47 years ago. Caroline Kennedy decided that the 50th anniversary of her father's presidency was a good time to release them, so now we have these 350 pages and eight CDs. If you are obsessed with Jacqueline Kennedy, admired her husband or just can't get enough of Presidential politics, you will find this book addictive.

You will also be forced to confront the gulf between what she knew at that time about her husband and what we know now.

Start with the fact that John F. Kennedy was the most flagrantly promiscuous president in the last century. He spent 15 minutes with a prostitute a few hours before the first televised Presidential debate. In the White House, he and his wife had separate bedrooms; he hired one of his lovers to be her secretary and avoided Jackie as much as possible. ("That first winter [in the White House], I couldn't sleep very well," she tells Schlesinger, with touching innocence. "He'd always send you away and --- when he knew you were tired. And then you'd come back so happy again. I always think our whole married life was renewals of love after, you know, brief separations.") The last weekend of JFK's life? He spent it with two female assistants in Palm Beach.

We become what we behold. He was the son of an imperious philanderer; she was the daughter of a notorious man about town. In their aristocratic circles, monogamy was the exception, a fluke, and wives put up with the wandering husbands. Appearance was all. That Pulitzer Prize that Kennedy won for "Profiles in Courage" -- his father bought it for him. And, it is widely believed, Joe Kennedy was willing to pay Jackie $1 million to stay with the President in his second term.

And yet you only have to look at the final picture in this book to know that, whatever love meant for them, Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy did love one another. In death, she gave him the greatest gift a widow can --- she created a legend, Camelot. She does that here, but that's the least of the reasons to dive into this book. We know better. And yet the legend endures.

What matters much more than the marketing of her lost husband is how his widow digs deep into people and places and events. Her tart observations point the way to the independent woman she would eventually become. A kind of greatness lay behind her. But a better kind of greatness lay ahead.
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Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy
Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (Hardcover - September 14, 2011)
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