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Customer Review

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction At Its Best, December 20, 2008
This review is from: November 22, 1963: A Novel (Paperback)
According to the Historical Novel Society, "To be deemed historical...a novel must have been written at least fifty years after the events described, or have been written by someone who was not alive at the time of those events (who therefore approaches them only by research)." Author Adam Braver may have been alive when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated: Braver was born in 1963. But he obviously does not remember the event, and he has approached it through a fascinating combination of research and fiction-crafting in his new novel.

I thought I knew a lot about the assassination, which is an historical event for me, too (my parents were still a few months away from meeting each other on November 22, 1963). But Braver's book, which focuses in depth on the events of that day through the closely-drawn third-person eyes of everyone from a Dallas policeman to Abe Zapruder to Maud Shaw (Caroline and John-John's nanny) to, of course, Jackie Kennedy, opened up so much more.

Most of us will never know what it was to be Air Force One as it bore the slain President's coffin back to Washington; Braver has imagined that. Most of us didn't witness the autopsy at Walter Reed; Braver has evoked it. Most of us can't imagine how Maud Shaw told six-year-old Caroline what had happened (I hadn't even realized that Jackie Kennedy had given the nanny that awful task); Braver shows us how it might have happened:

"They were the only two in the room, but...Miss Shaw could barely look at Caroline, tucked firmly in bed under the canopy of rosebud chintz, forcing a confident expression, though it was clear she knew something wasn't right; and Miss Shaw's eyes were tearing while Caroline stared at her, almost demanding an explanation other than Miss Shaw taking her hand and apologizing for the tears; and Miss Shaw knew she could wait until morning (Mrs. Auchincloss told her Mrs. Kennedy said it was up to her to gauge what the children did or didn't know), but she looked at Caroline and something told her it wouldn't be fair to send the girl to sleep, to let her wake up full of promise--better for the girl to wake up as part of the grief, and that way maybe she'll mourn more purely; then Miss Shaw inhaled so deeply her gut almost burst, and on the exhalation she said that there had been an accident; then she paused, realizing the sound of hope in the word accident, and corrected herself to say, 'He's been shot, and God has taken him to Heaven because they couldn't make him better in the hospital,' and then closed her eyes, praying that when she opened them she wouldn't see Caroline crying--that this had all been a dream."

This is historical fiction at its best: intensely researched (check out Braver's staggering list of acknowledgments, including the Oral History collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum [Maud Shaw's is among the transcripts Braver tells us he accessed]) and beautifully written. I recommend it highly.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 23, 2011 1:49:04 PM PDT
Is your review based on the BOOK or your own information? Because there is information here that is WRONG and I would like to know because if this info is coming out of the book I will NOT buy it. The autopsy was NOT at Walter Reed, but Bethesda. And Maude Shaw did NOT tell Caroline her father was shot & he went to heaven. Caroline was told that Patrick (the baby who died in Aug. 63) was lonely and her father went to look after him & be with him. So if this info is n the book, it is factually incorrect. Or is this your information in the review? Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2011 2:45:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 23, 2011 2:46:44 PM PDT
I'm very sorry, but it's been more than 2 1/2 years since I wrote that review. Although I'm fairly certain that I relied only on the book in writing the review (the brief excerpt is taken directly from the book), I can't respond to the autopsy question with 100 percent certainty. Perhaps you can check with a library copy before purchasing the book?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2011 4:02:34 PM PDT
Thank you for replying. There really isn't a library near where I live, I was just curious if you recall if this info is in the book, I notice a few other reviews said (loosely) that there were some errors, but these two are pretty big, esp. the Walter Reed one. Although I think it would be maddeningly fascinating to read a novel about Jackie Kennedy's thoughts/feelings/actions on 11/22, Steven Spielberg is making a movie about that very thing called 'Jackie', I believe I will wait for that. Thank you!

Posted on Aug 11, 2015 8:52:25 PM PDT
Scarlet says:
Jackie also didn't tell Maud Shaw to break the news to Caroline. That was Janet Auchincloss's idea. Jackie was furious with her mother for it.
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