- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (November 3, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781250070258
- ISBN-13: 978-1250070258
- ASIN: 1250070252
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 323 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story Paperback – November 3, 2015
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“Provocative… Recast in this light, Jackie's post-1963 actions make a new kind of sense… With a diagnosis of PTSD in mind, incidents once criticized as selfish or at least self-indulgent can be reassessed.” ―USA Today
“An intimate and revealing look at one of the 20th century's most remarkable--and misunderstood--women.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis provides suggestive evidence that her subject suffered from the clinical symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, including flashbacks, insomnia, numbness, avoidance, fear, depression, and anger. … Her documentation -- which includes Jackie's remarks to intimates, as well as her behavior -- is compelling. Interpreting the post-assassination life through the lens of PTSD turns out to be a fruitful way of making sense of Jackie's sometimes odd-seeming choices.” ―The Boston Globe
“Barbara Leaming offers a startling and fascinating look at Jackie's life. … Sensitive and stylish, intimate and insightful…. At once harrowing and humane, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis stands as a deeply moving narrative.” ―Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Both refreshing and uniquely insightful.” ―Maclean's
“Successfully provides a fresh perspective on the widow of assassinated U.S. president John F. Kennedy. Award-winning biographer Barbara Leaming's take on Kennedy Onassis is well-written and thoroughly researched. ... Leaming's new biography brings her back to life in an important new light.” ―Winnipeg Free Press
“Barbara Leaming makes a strong argument, based on original research, that Jackie suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at a time before the condition had been diagnosed.” ―Bookpage
About the Author
BARBARA LEAMING is a New York Times bestselling author. Three of her biographies have been New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Her recent book, Churchill Defiant, received the Emery Reves Award from The Churchill Centre. Leaming's articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, London's The Times, and other publications. She lives in Connecticut.
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What is made evident is that Jackie, despite the trappings of wealth and fame, had a difficult life and experienced a number of humiliations, including that of her parents' divorce and acrimonious relations. JFK's pursuit of other women was just one more burden as well as the humiliating way his family and political cronies disparaged her for her "differences". The loss of two babies, plus an earlier miscarriage only compounded the grief and unhappiness. Leaming's interpretation of her life really begins with the aftermath of the assassination and Jackie's suffering which Leaming equates with PTSD. She recounts Jackie's continual reliving of those few bloody and traumatic seconds which changed her life, her nightmares, her reactions to noise and crowds, her drinking, her thoughts about suicide. All during this time, she also had to contend with LBJ's and RFK's attempt to use her for political purposes. The debacle over the Manchester book is more evidence of Jackie's obsessive desire to be in control. With RFK's assassination, Jackie's feelings of desperation increased as the nightmares began again. Her marriage to Onassis was not so much for the money as for the safety and security she thought he could provide for her and her children. That marriage too ended in humilation, despite the wealth she was able to obtain.
After Onassis' death, Jackie began another stage of her life, perhaps the most successful and fulfilling of all, as an editor. Leaming sees this as the best evidence of her survival and ultimate victory over the trauma of the assassination. The was made possible by her ability to control her surroundings and her life. The tendency to be a control freak may have initially arisen out of her childhood unhappiness but it was given full range in the last years of her life when she had the money. In the end, of course, she could not control the cancer that finally defeated her.
Whether or not the PTSD argument works medically or psychologically in Jackie's case, her experiences of constant flashbacks and nightmares, of depression, certainly have a similarity with those experiences of soldiers who have suffered trauma. When Ted White met with her and then wrote the famous "Camelot" article, what was never published were his notes from that hours-long interview when she relived the assassination over and over again. White was horrified by it all. She was still exhibiting the same type of memory years afterward.
This is a fascinating and thoughtful study of a woman who still has a special place in American history and iconography. It is sympathetic but not fawning. Leaming does not depict Jackie as an innocent, sweet, saint but as a real woman with strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices. She was intelligent and had meaningful friendships with men as disparate as Robert McNamara, Joseph Alsop, and Harold MacMillan (and these were friendships, not romances). Her letters to them and their replies are quoted, more evidence of her complexity and intelligence.
I read this in two days because I simply could not put it down...a trite statement but true. It is a thoughtful and ultimately moving account of a woman who has been depicted in so many different ways. Leaming's interpretation is that she was ultimately a survivor and she quotes something Jackie said when asked about what she was most proud about in her life. Her response, more or less, was that she was someone who had lived though great difficulties but had emerged relatively sane.
I also appreciated how Ms. Leaming went all the way back to Jackie's adolescence and her youthful years as a career girl to put her post-Dallas life in sharper relief.
For such a detailed study of the woman's life, I was surprised by omissions. First of all, none of her pre-Onassis romances are examined. How did she feel about Lord Harlech (beyond not wishing to marry him), John Warnecke and Ros Gilpatric (not even mentioned)? What was her relationship with her children like as they grew? How did she (a woman who came to value control over all) respond to her mother's Alzheimer's and her father's/sister's alcoholism? Was she terrified of the genetic component of these conditions, and the dangers they posed to her quest to control her fate?
Those criticisms aside, I appreciate this portrait of a gallant lady, a woman who struggled to overcome the tragedy that threatened to define her.
I just want to update and add an important not about authors and their 'sanitized' stories. I am presently reading the life of Debbie Reynolds and she doesn't speak badly about anyone, no dishing th edown low on eny of her costars or people in her career. Sometimes an author will do that since it is a way of taking the "High Ground" and not getting into distracting mudslinging that really doesn't tell you about the person themselves. Just wanted to over that tidbit as someone who has read a few biographies and has learned a little bit!