25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2001
I loved this book. I've never read anything before that made me feel like I really knew Jackie Kennedy - but this book makes me feel not only that I know what it would have been like to meet her, but also that I know how she felt at every single moment during her husband's presidency. For the first time I can understand why she stayed with a man who was constantly cheating on her, and how she could have continued to love him. The account of the assassination brought tears to my eyes. When you know the truth of what had been going on in the Kennedys' personal lives at that time, the events are even more heartbreaking.
The book also gave me an incredible insight into Jack Kennedy - how the same man could have bungled things so terribly at the Bay of Pigs and then become such a great leader during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The world was on the brink of nuclear war then, and this book gives a minute by minute account of how decisions were reached - which is very relevant now when the USA is facing another terrible crisis. If you want to understand how a real man can become a hero, faults and all, read this book.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2005
I am surprised to see so many customer reviews complaining about this book's supposed over emphasis on Mr., rather than Mrs Kennedy. The discussion of Jack's politics, personality, and philandering provide crucial insights into the Kennedy marriage and the choices Jackie made, form her public role as First Lady to her private activities with the children, etc. The research that went into this book is so exhaustive. Using various primary sources, Leaming recreates the Kennedy White House in a second-by-second timeline, bringing the history and the people involved to life in a way that no biography (at least none that I've ever read) has. Far from boring, this account is riveting! I was especially enthralled by the section on the birth and death of Patrick, the Kennedys' third child. The level of detail on these several days' events is amazing. I couldn't put this book down. If you are interested in placing Jackie in a larger historical context, while still getting plenty of details about her personal life, vices, sex appeal and fashion sense, then this bio is a must.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2002
Having recently read several other of the newer Kennedy books, I was not shocked this time to find out about "Dr. Feelgood" who routinely attended both Jack and Jackie in times of stress. During those more innocent times of the 60's, I don't really think that they totally understood the ramifications of being shot up with drugs so regularly. That side of their personality aside, I found this book quite fascinating as to how they could have such a messed up marriage and still carry off a stunning political reign.
They were a team, bizarre as Jack Kennedy's sexual behavior was, these two were a highly energized dynamic duo, each feeding off the success of the other. Jack loved nothing more than to show off his brilliant wife and Jackie thrived in the spotlight whenever she had demonstrated one of her amazing coups of winning the hearts of many recalcitrant world leaders. They were magical, both of them.
However, away from the glitter of White House social life, Jack continued his depraved sexual life, leaving a dismayed Jackie to turn the other way, always wondering what she lacked.
She did not like the White House and spent more weeks away from it than we knew before. It was she that loved the Virginia hunt life and the house they built there together. For her it was an escape from having to come face to face with a long line of young girls brought in to perform sexual favors with the President.
But in the end, behind it all, after the death of Patrick and in the months leading up to the assasination, there was a change. A deep and loving devotion grew between the two of them. An abiding respect developed and Jack Kennedy for the first time realized what he has been doing to his wife. Had he lived, I think that he would have changed. He was already on the brink. Jackie, though had to live with the uncertainly. Never knowing what would have been ahead for them.
This book gives some great behind the scenes information about what life was like during the missle crisis, just what happened in the ER in Dallas, and describes in detail the terrible sadness that the president felt when Patrick died.
We are shown two diverse personalities who in their own odd way, teamed up and lit up the world for three short years. We see two devoted parents as well.
In short, the end of the book says it best. That after the assasination, Jackie's resolve was to show that world how she would bring out the best in her children. To make them everything that their father would have wanted. This became her mission. While not mentioned in this book, one of her famous quotes is "If you bungle bringing up your children, nothing else that you do much matters." A mantra that many people today would well follow.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2002
Barbara Leaming's brilliance as a biographer is to discern, from painstaking reconstruction of contributory events, the motivations behind her subjects' history-making deeds. However, many reviewers have scolded Leaming for presuming to know what her latest subject, Jacqueline Kennedy, was thinking.
Indeed, Leaming is guilty as charged. But if a reviewer asks if Leaming's suppositions as to what Jackie was thinking are the product of research, logic, and common sense, the answer would have to be yes. Her chief theories -- that JFK viewed Jackie as a replacement for his deceased sister Kathleen, and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan as a replacement for his disabled father -- would surely be denied vehemently by each of the principals, but that doesn't make those theories wrong.
Although Leaming did not intend "Mrs. Kennedy" as a hatchet job, she ably demonstrates why JFK's sexual exploits really did endanger national security. Her book explodes the myths of Camelot and JFK as Devoted Family Man even more thoroughly than Seymour Hersh's "Dark Side of Camelot."
Now the bad news: in at least one instance, flawed research has resulted in Leaming's ascribing motivations that were impossible. She claims (on pages 149-150) that Jackie was seething at Frank Sinatra during a Sept. 21, 1961, White House luncheon because Sinatra had humiliated her the previous weekend while sailing with the Kennedys at Hyannis Port. Unfortunately, Leaming has mixed up her weekends. Sinatra's infamous stint at Hyannis Port occurred after that luncheon, so Jackie, unless amazingly clairvoyant, could not have been angry about it. (See the Washington Star, Sept. 24, 1961, page A-5; many major newspapers reported that same day on Sinatra's Cape Cod cruise with the Kennedys.)
There are instances in which Leaming does seem to go too far in her mind-reading. When she asserts that JFK, who sobbed uncontrollably when his infant son Patrick died, was also sobbing for a previously stillborn daughter and for having caused Jackie so much pain, she doesn't give any documentation for knowing so intimately the magnitude of his grief.
However, as with her previous books, Leaming is frequently astute in digging up the likely causes of her subjects' behavior, whether saintly or bizarre.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2001
Readers know all about the political and public life of this incredible lady. However, when it comes to the private life of Jacqueline Kennedy, she has been seen from many different angles - quiet, reserved, independent, but always she revealed an image which exuded class and style.
It is very difficult for anyone to know what really goes on in someone's private life no matter how well one believes they know an individual; Jacqueline Kennedy's life is no exception. What this book does reveal is a better understanding of what actually motivated Jacqueline, where she appeared to find her inner personal strength and what might have "made her tick" from a psychological perspective. Was she really a materialistic woman? After all, aside from being the wife of one of history's most acclaimed U.S. Presidents, she did ultimately marry one of the world's wealthiest men who was many years her senior. Or, was Jacqueline simply a lonely lady, like many women, looking for all the love, acceptance and companionship she rightfully deserved? Only Jacqueline, herself, would be able to answer that question and, unfortunately, she is no longer here to tell us.
It seems ironic that books of this nature quite often surface after the person is deceased and no longer able to speak their own views. In this case, the reader must rely on Barbara Leaming's words and assessment. I did enjoy this book very much; however, the one downside was the rather grainy black and white photographs. Had coloured photography been used, it certainly would have added a more professional quality to the book, and, let's face it, Jacqueline was indeed a "quality woman". Jacqueline Kennedy was, and always will be, one of the world's most extraordinary women of her time.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2001
Being a Kennedy bibliophile, I was pleasantly surprised to find information in this book that had not been previously disclosed.
The title is somewhat misleading as the author does devote much of the book to Kennedy politics. But, for the first time I got a glimpse of what life was like for Jackie and how much she endured. Reading about Jack Kennedy's sexual adventures makes Clinton's escapades seem trivial. Had Kennedy not been assasinated he would surely have been impeached down the line!
A good read for those who find the Kennedys interesting.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2001
First of all, this book needs a really, really good editor. I can't tell you how often themes are repeated and repeated to the point where it seems like the reader is assumed to be dumb because they aren't expected to remember an important point already made. Secondly, the exchange of a few letters - none of which are quoted from Jackie AT ALL - forms the premise of this "great" relationship between her and Harold Macmillan. Quite a stretch. But the real problem with this book is that there is total speculation about what Jackie is thinking and feeling. CHeckng the footnotes indicates nothing at all about where the author is getting all this. It's all interesting but its more like a pyschological fiction than a genuine piece of "missing history." All that said - the speculation is interesting and well-thought out by the author - its just that this is about the author's feelings and thoughts, not Jackie's.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2007
I have read dozens of books on the Kennedys, and I found this one to be different from most. Aside from the many fascinating details about the day to day lives of the Kennedys in the White House, the author includes her own psychological insights on the marriage, and on Jack and Jackie individually. I found her insights to be extremely perceptive and she explained a lot of things that, before now, have gone unexplained. For example, by all accounts, Jackie was extremely intelligent. Why then does she appear so docile and almost little-girlish when being interviewed? Why did Jackie tolerate her husband's infidelities, and were they in fact in love, or were the Kennedy's just a public act for the benefit of JFK's political career? The answers and insights into these questions, and the details backing them up were fascinating to me, and I think anyone interested in the subject of Jackie Kennedy would enjoy this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2004
If I wanted to read a blow by blow of JFK's most notable presidential descisions, then I would read a book strictly about his presidency. The book is entitled "Mrs. Kennedy..." yet she takes the backburner. I also do not grasp how a book which was supposed to focus less on this particular era in Jackie's life ("America's Queen: The Life of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis" by Sarah Bradford) gave the most important details. In short, the title of this book is false advertising at its worst and the author might have done well to spend less time trying to read minds. The most repeated themes of this book are contridictory and the writer's voice is projected too loudly.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2011
I have recommended this book to a number of people and they all have loved it as much as I did. It is a great blend of personal story and political history. Some of the details are almost unbelievable. If JFK had been president in current times, he would not have been able to get away with almost any of the behavior from his personal life -- both while on the campaign trail and especially while in office. Also, there is such a mystique about the Kennedys and the Kennedy presidency. If he had lived, I'm not sure that would have been sustainable. His personal choices were a powder keg waiting to happen.