Book Review: And They Called It Camelot, Fountaindale Public Library

Genre: Historical/Biographical Fiction

First Released: 2020

Synopsis: “Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right. But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend.”

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When I was growing up, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was the president’s widow who married a rich Greek man and was known as Jackie O. I never gave her much thought besides wondering why she married such an older man. So when I saw the book, And They Called it Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton, I was mildly interested. It really isn’t my normal reading choice—the Kennedys and their kind have been done over and over. But I didn’t have anything new on the good old bookshelf, so I thought, why not?

Well, I could not put it down! I know it is fiction, but I was riveted from the start by the story of a young Jacqueline Bouvier meeting John Kennedy, being wooed and falling in love. The sacrifices she had to make and the infidelities she put up with all for one goal: get Jack in the White House. She was his asset, and they were a team. All the things I was vaguely familiar with—the trip to France and remodeling the White House—are covered in detail. We are situated next to her on that fateful day in Dallas when JFK is assassinated. We are with her when she tries to move ahead with her life, still tied to the Kennedy family as “America’s Widow,” afraid for her children as another Kennedy is gunned down.

We are introduced to Aristotle Onassis, at first briefly when she was First Lady, and then again as a widow. At first, this new romance was just to get away from everything, but it turned into much more. JFK was the great love of her life, despite his flaws. He was charming, dynamic, a real presence. But Onassis, another man who is larger than life, offers her freedom and safety. Not only for herself but also her children—but that also comes with a price. How much of herself is she willing to sacrifice again, and for how long?

Overall, this book surprised me as to how easy it flowed. It was a bit gossipy at points, but it also gave me a higher appreciation of Jackie Kennedy Onassis that I didn’t have before. She went from being a woman I remember from magazines or school, to a flesh and blood person. Now, I want to know more about her and those around her. For me, the best fiction books make me want to learn more about the actual people and events, and this book did just that.

If this book interests you, there are copies available in print and digital (links listed above).