- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (January 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401324258
- ISBN-13: 978-1401324254
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 381 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy Hardcover – Box set, September 14, 2011
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About the Author
Caroline Kennedy is the editor of the New York Times bestselling A Patriot's Handbook, Profiles in Courage for Our Time, The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, A Family of Poems, A Family Christmas, and the coauthor of The Right to Privacy and In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action. She serves as the Vice Chair of the Fund for Public Schools in New York City and President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. She lives in New York City.
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At this moment less than 4 months into the grieving process, she agrees with Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger to go through a series of interviews to be recorded for history. The historian had taken a leave from Harvard to become an assistant to JFK in the White House. He was considered the egghead of the entourage that had followed the President. There was one caveat to the agreement with Schlesinger and the President's widow. These recordings would not be released until 50 years after the audio sessions were held, and Jackie would have editorial control over any revisions she wanted to make.
Thus in January 2004, the widow and the historian began what became 7 ½ hours of recordings. The sessions were held in the Georgetown home that Jackie, Caroline, and John Jr. moved into several weeks after the assassination. The tapes are extraordinary. They have been audio enhanced for quality. You can actually hear things in the background like Jackie lighting up a cigarette, or putting ice into a drink. The emotionality is all there. For those of us who may have thought we understood the first lady, or her relationship to the 35th President, we need to rethink our ideas based on this fascinating new material.
Organization of the Material
What we are looking at her is really a project as opposed to a book or a cd recording. You will receive a slip case which will contain an audio package with cd's; each cd will represent one of the seven interviews conducted by the first lady. It is elegantly packaged, and even the choice of colors (Presidential blue) is exquisite. In the slipcase is a book which contains the transcripts of the audio cd recordings. It is 349 pages of narrative, and whatever you do; don't forget to look at the picture of the President and Jacqueline sitting in the backseat of the Lincoln in Dallas on page 350-351. I have never seen this picture before. She is absolutely radiant and in love with her prince.
Since nowhere in the review materials does anyone mention the contents of the recordings, I will give you a brief synopsis of them so you can judge if this is the type of material you would be interested in:
The First Lady covers then Senator Kennedy's political aspirations. This entire session is devoted to the 1950's. The period preceding JFK's ascension to the White House is chronicled. She also discusses the future President's attempt to win the Vice Presidential nomination in 1956 during the Stevenson convention. Early married life and social life in Georgetown, Washington is also covered.
We all know that the President was a prolific reader, some say he read at a 1200 word per minute reading speed. Jackie tells us what he liked to read, and then she goes into his opinions of other leaders past and present. These include Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Charles DE Gaulle. She also has some interesting words to say about the President's father Joseph P. Kennedy, and she is surprisingly candid about the JFK - RFK relationship. This is the recording which also tells us the story of the 1960 election.
It is here that the conversations go into the relationship between JFK and United States Senator Joseph McCarthy. You will be surprised at some of the things she has to say. She covers the primaries that took place during the 1960 campaign. How did the President pick LBJ as his running mate; what did she think of the debates between Kennedy and Nixon? Election Day is thoroughly chronicled.
JFK was the first President born in the 20th century, and the youngest elected President ever to serve, which is still true. His transition from Senator to President was crucial. How was it done? You will now understand her viewpoint. What were the youthful President's plans for the Presidency and what about the early White House daily life which included the social life and his back problems? The inaugural address is highlighted.
Here we have the Cuban Revolution, and the Bay of Pigs which completely redefined his Presidency. What is uniquely talked about however are the Presidential visits to Canada and France where she charms De Gaulle?
Mrs. Kennedy with emotion describes the Cuban Missile Crisis from her vantage point. Perhaps the most amazing and insightful statement is made in the recordings right here. Jackie tells us that during the darkest moments of the crisis when the missiles were ready for launch, that she tells her husband, that she would rather stay in the White House with her children and die with you, then go on living without you.
The First Lady also tells us about the Berlin Crisis, disarmament, and Civil Rights, but everything pales in comparison to Cuba where we were all in jeopardy and so very close to perishing as a civilization.
The recordings are summed up with discussions of JFK's trip to India. We then understand what the President thought about Viet Nam which became the dominate domestic issue of the next ten years. It also threatened to rip apart the social fabric of our country. Mrs. Kennedy talks about her children and the plans for the second term, and the coming campaign.
The PROJECT Passes from MOTHER to DAUGHTER
The First Lady only granted 3 interviews after the young President died. One was to Theodore White, a fabulous writer who published his interview in Life Magazine shortly after JFK's death. It is here that the President and his Administration were compared to Camelot and King Arthur. Another series of interviews were given to author William Manchester who wrote the best seller "Death of a President", the official chronicle of the assassination, although there were disagreements with the Kennedy family. These tapes that we now have are the only other interviews granted.
Upon Jackie's death in 1994, the tapes of the interviews which were stored in a vault at the Kennedy Library were opened and revealed to Caroline. She made the decision that the tapes would eventually be made available to the public, and to history. Her biggest decision was whether or not to edit the tapes. How interesting that she chose to leave them alone - no revisions, which was her right to do.
The only revisions that were made were in the interest of clarification. You know how sometimes when you transcribe spoken language to written language; it can look very awkward, even unintelligible. Those are the only revisions that were made.
This is an elegant book, it is beautiful, and it is historically meaningful and important. The tapes and the voice will have meaning for all of us that were alive during this period of history. For those being exposed to the life of the slain President, you might get a little bit of the feeling of what the rest of us share. Historian Richard Beschloss in the first sentence of his Introduction to the book says, "It is her turn to speak". How appropriate. Jackie in the tapes says, "He is free and we must live". It says it all, doesn't it?
During this period that Caroline Kennedy shepherded the project, the President's sole surviving sibling asked herself, when does someone no longer belong to you, but history. With the publication of this book and the accompanying tapes we now have our answer, and we are all better off for it. Thank you for reading this review.
I have attempted to be objective in my understanding of both the book and the recordings, but you must understand the hold that this man had on those of us that lived through his administration regardless of our ages. I was once caught in a building in the late 1980's where the fire alarms went off and found myself on the elevator alone with Larry O'Brien, the President's campaign director during the run for the presidency. We began a conversation, and I asked what he was really like? O'Brien turned inward, thought for a moment, and then began. He said "You must understand, I left my family for him during the 1950's. I followed him everywhere. He had that kind of hold on people." This book and accompanying recordings will have an impact on the historical analysis of JFK's life and legacy. Get it today.
We learn what touched our President's heart -- that laborers earn a living wage, that Central and South America feel like real players on this continent and on the world stage.
We learn about how he governed. JFK had serious doubts about Dean Rusk and was going to dump him in 1964. Imagine the impact that would have had on Vietnam and Laos! Bobby was his closest adviser, Sarge Shriver was an important help in forming the Cabinet, but JFK was the architect of his own Presidency. He was the one in charge.
We learn how she loved him! She was devoted to preserving his memory in these tapes, to sharing the "idealist without illusions" that she knew with history. She was so proud of being an asset to him, so in awe of his intellect, so moved by how much he loved their children.
She could be a bitch, yes. She's unsparing with Lady Bird Johnson, Eunice Shriver, her mother-in-law, Tish Baldridge ... In fairness, I think she realized these observations could hurt feelings and that's why the tapes were sealed.
We learn how hard it was to BE her. She mentions being unable to get out of bed, unable to stop crying. Post-partum depression? The pressures of campaigning and then being First Lady? The strain of being married to a complicated man who "liked girls?" We'll never know. There are some things she would never share with us.
And, like The Help, which is set at about the same time, we learn important things about our recent past. Washwomen in the south were earning 66¢/hour. When the Kennedys visited Latin America, she was actually PRAISED for, while visiting an orphanage, permitting non-white children to kiss her. As she says, "Isn't that sad?" Yes, it is, and it wasn't that long ago.
I've only skimmed the surface. Whether you're interested in an intimate look at Camelot, an icon in her own words, or a snapshot of how we were as a country and a culture during the days of Mad Men, you will enjoy these historic conversations.
The recordings are clear and easy to understand. The audio quality is surprisingly good. The book has some photos in it and the text of the interviews. The reason to buy this is for the Cd's, however, and I do recommend buying it.
Most recent customer reviews
I just did not think she was like that, but it is still a very vivid memoir.Read more