‘American Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ by Sarah Bradford

'American Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' by Sarah Bradford

‘… the greatest changes in the White House was brought about by the presence of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy herself. She was thirty years younger than any of the First Ladies I had served, and, I was to discover, had the most complex personality of them all. In public she was elegant, aloof, dignified and regal. In private she was casual, impish, and irreverent. She had a will of iron, with more determination than anyone I have ever met. Yet she was so soft-spoken, so deft and subtle, that she could impose her will upon people without their ever knowing it …’

'American Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' by Sarah BradfordI heartily enjoy reading biographies – or autobiographies if I can get my hands on  a decently edited copy – of strong, influential (most-especially American) women. Surprisingly perhaps, I had previously never been interested in reading or knowing anything at all about Ms. Jackie O – as for me she was nothing more than a woman in large sunglasses. However, after reading a Monroe bio, I realized I absolutely needed to read more about Jackie – who apparently preferred to be called Jacqueline – immediately.

‘For herself she foresaw a future as the circus queen who … married the [daring] young man on the flying trapeze.’

Through the course of the biography I read many things that I expected to find – most notably that her first husband President John F. Kennedy cheated on her often and with a myriad of women. (Jackie’s second husband, Aristotle Onassis, also had a long-standing affair with another woman while married to her.) What I was slightly shocked to discover was that Kennedy slept with her friends, women under her employ, and her sister, Lee Radziwill (allegedly). Because of these betrayals, Jackie was said to be cold towards women and hard to get acquainted with – which at least in my mind – is completely understandable.

‘Jackie’s closed circle was difficult to enter: once in, you had lifetime membership but you could be expelled without appeal for some perceived misdeed.’

'American Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' by Sarah BradfordHowever, when it came to men, Jackie did not seem to have those similar reservations. She revered her father – lovingly referred to as Black Jack – who was a self-processed ladies man, whom freely cheated on Jackie’s mother in a similar fashion to the way John cheated on Jackie. According to the biographer, Jackie found men to be the ultimate game. She loved seducing them and making them feel as though they were the most important person in the room – and she did not seem to care if a gentleman of her choosing was married or not. Allegedly, she even started an affair with President Kennedy’s younger brother Bobby following the assassination – even though he was married and a father to almost a dozen children.

‘The main game in life was to attract the opposite sex using every trick in the book, the implication being that when in comes to sex everyone is easily fooled, all being fair in love and war because … ‘all men are rats’.’

This book was very enjoyable to read and shared not only the history of Jackie – but also of the time in which she lived and the people who defined that time. I have never spent much time studying the history of the sixties – but this novel certainty peaked my interest.

'American Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' by Sarah BradfordIn regards to Jackie O – well, I can’t honestly say she is a dame I would want to be friends with, but she is most definitely someone to be admired for her strength and sense of self. She was able to carry herself with grace and calm – even during the most heinous of events – though she visibly suffered inwardly even as she sparkled outwardly.

‘When you’re the kind of person who wants only to be strong – well, she suffered from this. She couldn’t accept her own frailties. Nor could she deal with frailties in others.’

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