Though I have read historical fiction throughout my life, this is the first time I’ve read a book detailing events I lived through. I think this makes me a bit more critical than I normally am of books with stories I did not witness. I also was fascinated by the Kennedys for many years, have read a lot about them, and likely know more about them than many reading AND THEY CALLED IT CAMELOT. So, that too influences my review. I gave it three stars on Goodreads.
Overall, author Stephanie Marie Thornton gives a believable (first person) voice to the mythic Jacqueline (Jackie) Kennedy Onassis — particularly as the book relates to her relationship with the former President John F. Kennedy. His good looks, charisma, intelligence, energy, and appeal to women were portrayed well, which made Jackie’s love understandable. Her hurt and reaction to JFK’s serial infidelities also felt plausible. As did her experience witnessing his assasination. Obviously, these events are richly documented and there are many historical resources to draw on.
It was the later relationships Jackie had where her character seemed more one-dimensional to me. Her devotion to and reliance on JFK’s brother Bobby felt mostly honest, but, according to the author, was deliberately ambiguous. But her marriage to Aristotle Onassis was only superficially handled. And her children, Caroline and John Jr. played only small roles in the telling of Jackie’s story, though her commitment to them was central to who she was. Her successful career as a book editor was barely touched upon. As was her multi-year relationship with Maurice Tempelsman. Of course, these are years that are less well-documented than Jackie’s years as First Lady.
The book ends at the peak of her professional life in New York City, and I understand that decision (not to cover her illness and death) but it hit me as a bit abrupt when I was reading, probably because I knew what was coming.
I certainly recommend the book, especially for those who share my interest in history and/or the Kennedys.
More about the author, Stephanie Marie Thornton.