Customer Review

57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing story--Jackie's life through the books she loved, December 13, 2010
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This review is from: Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books (Hardcover)
I did not know what to expect when I opened this book, a gift from a close friend. All I knew about Jackie Kennedy Onassis was the clothes, the men, the tragedies that raised her life to the level of myth. Not a life that, honestly, I thought I wanted to read more about.

What a revelation William Kuhn's book is. By the end of the first chapter, describing in moving detail the last weeks of her life, I was hooked. This was a woman of imagination and courage, with a rich inner life that had nothing to do with paparazzi or parties. Like many intelligent people, Jackie was an artist manqué who lived vicariously by reading about other artists: dancers, writers, designers, musicians. And when she found herself alone, having to remake her life after the deaths of two husbands, she created a career in editing those books. And, she was no ornamental editor at Doubleday; she worked at it.

Kuhn is one of those great popular historians who writes so well, you don't notice you are turning page after page, not wanting to put the book down. He has interviewed dozens of people who worked with Jackie personally and who provide a kind of cultural history of the second half of the 20th century. You read about Rolling Stone and the American Ballet Theater and Martha's Vineyard and the Metropolitan Museum. Michael Jackson, Carly Simon, Diana Vreeland, Stuart Udall and Bill Moyers, whose book on the Power of Myth was so influential. There was even a book Jackie edited in which she inadvertently got mixed up with a Russian spy.

Jackie knew she could not escape her celebrity, but what Kuhn reveals is that she really believed in the notion of aristocracy in its best forms: the love and appreciation of beauty, taste, and manners. These are documented in the wonderful books she edited about Versailles, Tiffany, Russian palaces, and many more.

The most delicious thing about this book is that it introduces you to so many other books you probably never heard of. I hope it gives these books a new lease on life, such as the unique works of Peter Sis and Eugene Kennedy, or Barbara Chase-Riboud's novel about Sally Heminges. I will never look at Jackie the same way again.
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