And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

Written by Stephanie Marie Thornton
Review by Fiona Alison

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis is the subject of Thornton’s new biographical fiction, and although touching on the politics of the day, she is deeply committed to portraying the woman behind the glamour and scandal.

Jackie meets Jack in 1952, marriage and introduction to the Kennedy family following quickly. She is an instant hit with Jack’s father, Joe, particularly when he witnesses the dedication with which she nurses his son through his life-threatening operations, legacies of his WWII heroism. Bobby is a staunch supporter from the outset. Jackie’s biggest achievement as First Lady is the White House renovation―a trend-setter for a new age. A love of the arts and history drives her to save Grand Central Terminal, Abu Simbel, and Lafayette Square. She travels extensively with a Princess-Diana-like feel to the eagerness with which foreign leaders take to her, often putting her husband in shadow.

Thornton deals judiciously with male infidelity (beginning before the register ink is dry) and is mindful not to have her readers dismiss Jackie as a docile ‘50s wife with an unfaithful husband. She knows a divorce will destroy Jack’s career, so she chooses to remain a loyal, perfect wife ―and she is deeply in love. Family remains a priority―as a couple they are devoted to the children―and Jackie weathers campaigns and media with the utmost grace and elegance, never allowing “baseness to enter her vocabulary.” Grief-stricken by Jack’s death, when Bobby’s follows, she seeks safety with Onassis away from America and its death threats to her children; not a love match.

Jackie was beautiful, cultured, and well-educated (spoke three languages; proficient in two more), and the asset to Jack’s career that Joe Kennedy recognised immediately. Thornton captures a celebrity with whom the world mourned in November 1963, but her down-to-earth approach has given us the opportunity for a more intimate and less sensational look at Jackie, the wife and mother. Highly recommended.