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Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life Mass Market Paperback – October 15, 2000

3.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Donald Spoto, best known for his Hitchcock bio The Dark Side of Genius, gets past Jackie's dazzling mythic exterior, revealing beneath her white gloves the ominous nicotine stains that led to her early death, gently removing those sunglasses to peek into her soul. Though he, too, must rely on the kindness of anonymous sources, Spoto is relatively skeptical about the dishiest dirt. And because he's an ex-monk and theology professor, he can deal with her religious, intellectual side. She was a superb editor for a third of her life, and Spoto gives her sharp wit its due.

Thus, for Jackie's alleged defloration in a Paris elevator, consult All Too Human, and for her alleged beddings of Brando, Sinatra, Beatty, and Bobby Kennedy, read Jackie After Jack. Spoto paints a more restrained Jackie. Sure, she frolicked in moonlit Mayan pools in 1968 with a married ex-JFK cabinet member, but Spoto says she never slept with Bobby, that JFK's Marilyn Monroe fling was a one-night stand, and that Jackie demanded that he take pity on the suicidal actress. Jack and Jackie were kindred: "Each endured a lonely and difficult childhood with emotionally distant mothers and philandering fathers ... each had cultivated a certain solitude." Jack was cold, amoral, uncultured; Jackie nudged him on civil rights, regaled Niebuhr and Nehru, brought art and mind to the White House: "Underneath a veil of lovely inconsequence, she concealed ... an all-seeing eye and a ruthless judgment." Spoto makes their last months--when, ironically, they found real love for one another--as poignant as the moment she found his skull in her hand.

From the self-doubting kid whose vile mother talked her out of accepting Vogue's Prix de Paris to the self-possessed editor of Dancing on My Grave and A Cartoon History of the Universe, Spoto's Jackie is a plausible character one wishes one could have known. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran film biographer Spoto (Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman, etc.) does a masterful job of capturing--and explaining--the complex personality of a figure who was arguably the most important icon of American womanhood of her day. Particularly attentive to the ways in which his subject both shaped and was shaped by American social history, Spoto finds that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose stated ambition upon graduating from high school in 1947 was "not to be a housewife," virtually embodied the shifting and often contradictory notions of ideal womanhood that defined her generation. A fierce intellectual and a compulsive shopper, a craver of solitude who nevertheless shone in the spotlight, a snob with a strong social conscience, a would-be career woman who also sought out the security of marriage to wealthy, prominent husbands, Jackie is indeed a study in contradictions. But Spoto convincingly accounts for each facet of her personality as a consequence of her upbringing (as the child of unhappily wed, social-climbing parents), of a cultural climate that at once encouraged women to nurture their talents and expected them to view themselves primarily as wives and mothers, and of her inclinations and abilities. While this is an unreservedly sympathetic and admiring portrait, it is also a candid one, detailing the ups and downs of Jackie's marriages and of her other relationships. Spoto concludes that Jackie found personal and professional fulfillment in her later years: in her relationships with her children and with Maurice Tempelsman, and in her career as an editor--a vocation at which, he maintains, she truly excelled. 32 pages b&w photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks; 1st edition (October 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780312977078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312977078
  • ASIN: 0312977077
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.1 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,548,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
At age 31 Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy became the First Lady and thus the most recognized woman in the world. Three years later, at age 34, she witnessed the bloody murder of her husband on that dreadful day in Dallas. For the next four days this young woman shared her private loss in a very public way, as she "showed the country how to grieve." If she did nothing else with her life Jackie Kennedy would still be remembered as a very remarkable person. But, thanks to Donald Spoto's serious, yet warm and sympathetic biography we have a fuller picture of Jacquelie Bouvier Kennedy-Onassis long before Dallas and for the remaining thirty years of her significant life.
This book is not for those interested in the dirt and dish that so mistakenly is perceived as fact when writing about the Kennedys. There is none of that here. Rather, Spoto approaches his subject with a desire to understand the person by searching for the purpose and meaning she gave to her experiences, as recounted by those who knew her best. He writes in a style that is gaceful and respectful, mirroring his life as a monk, as well as the way Mrs. Kennedy-Onassis tried to live her life.
With all her wealth, opportunity, and experiences, Spoto emphasizes that her greatest accopmlishement in this extraordinary life was simply that she was a devoted and loving mother to her two children. A complex task for us all, made more difficult by having to parent under the constant glare of public curiosity.
Perhaps the most telling passage of the book, one that speaks to the truer character of JBKO, is when she was asked why she never chose to respond to the tabliods, the critics, or myriad of others who fed off her celebrity status. In other words, to just give her side of the story!
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Format: Hardcover
If Jacqueline Kennedy's life was as much of a yawn as this book makes it seem, it didn't deserve to have a book written about it. I have read many past accounts of this fantastic and mysterious woman's life, and this is by far the least intriguing. Spoto treats his subject with the arms-length fawning that the tabloids gave Jackie during her life, and never digs deep enough to engage the reader. It appears that this author was rushing to finish this book, and never stopped to realize that he didn't tell much of a story along the way. The only thing that led me to purchase this book was hearing that Spoto explains that JFK and Marilyn Monroe never had an affair. But this subject is just barely covered, and frankly, the fact that so much evidence exists that the two WERE involved, left me searching for Spoto's explanation as to why there were so many witnesses to this affair that 'never happened'-- but he doesn't explain this. Do yourself a favor, and keep looking, if you're after a good biography of Jackie Kennedy, because this one is just awful.
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By A Customer on February 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This exhaustively researched book is very kind and extremely flattering to JBKO. So much so that is strained credibility. While the writer's approach is refreshing when compared to the hatchet jobs that have appeared over the years (one ludricous book even accuses Jackie of being an accomplice to JFK's murder!), it lacks the objectivity that a good biographer would bring to his subject. Still, I enjoyed the time I spent reading about this gallant lady.
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Format: Hardcover
There wasn't a whole lot of real news in this book, but it's always nice to read about Jackie Kennedy. This book is a little bit slow going, and dull, but once I got into it I had to keep reading. I only wish the writer had gone into more detail about her relationship with her children and the Kennedy family. It always seemed to me that Jackie tried to shield her children from the influence of the Kennedy men, and I was curious to see if that was true. However, not much detail was given there. All in all, it was no earth-shattering work.
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By A Customer on November 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In January 1964, a little less than two months after an assassin ended her husband's life, the widowed former First Lady appeared on TV to thank the world's mourners for their sympathy. "That broadcast," the author notes in this biography which deftly examines Jackie Kennedy Onassis, "was the last time she spoke of herself and her feelings to the world at large." In the chronology of her life, the event fell roughly at the midpoint: Jackie was 34 and would have another 30 years.
In the chronology of this book, the event occurs a little more than two-thirds of the way through and divides a work clearly stronger when Jackie had a consensual, if still guarded, relationship with the public and the press, on whose copious coverage the book heavily relies. Spoto, who has made a reputation with biographies of Alfred Hitchcock and Laurence Olivier, is nonetheless not averse to speculation when the information simply does not exist, as when he writes,"Whether Jackie returned from Europe as a virgo intacta may never be known: On this matter, she kept her counsel."
While Spoto admits that Jackie and JFK "took to the grave the details of their private moments," he does tell us she called the President "Bunny" as a rib on his insatiable sexual appetite. Such tidbits keep a reader engaged.
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