Review by Leslie Brown
Because Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had such notoriety as a fashion icon and jet setter, we forget how highly accomplished this woman was.
In her new book, Jackie After O, Boston Globe writer/editor Tina Cassidy takes us through Jackie’s insecure childhood to her time as a young First Lady and then to her shocking remarriage to Aristotle Onassis. Cassidy focuses on 1975, the year Jackie became a widow for the second time and began to find herself. The subtitle explains: “One Remarkable Year When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Defied Expectations and Rediscovered Her Dreams.”
Along the way, Cassidy gives a synopsis of Jackie’s talents: as a Vassar student who won a Vogue Contest with a wonderfully creative essay on “People I Wish I Had Known,” along with an insightful self portrait. Later on, she worked as The Inquiring Photographer for a prominent Washington, DC, newspaper. Once in the White House, the glamorous First Lady restored the mansion to highlight the historical artifacts that had long been forgotten to storage rooms.
In fact, Jackie had always been ahead of her time, despite her breathy voice during the White House Tour. When her husband was assassinated, she organized a state funeral so poignant that those of us who were there in those dark November days will never forget it.
Switch to 1975. Her children, who had always been her prime focus, were on their own, so Jackie took a job in publishing. Given her lifelong love of books, art, architecture, and history, not to mention the rolodex to end all, Jackie was a natural for working with writers. According to all accounts, she was a talented editor, easy to work with, never pulling rank.
Fortunately, she found some happiness during the last years of her short life (she died at 62) with an older, Belgian-born diamond merchant, Maurice Tempelsman, perhaps a safe father figure. And fortunately she did not live to see the death of her son, John, Junior.
Cassidy spends too much time on Jackie’s quest to save Grand Central Station in New York and Lafayette Square in DC. Perhaps Cassidy is heavy on the details here because of the exhaustive research she had to do to explain the two projects.
In addition, there is too much projection into Jackie’s thoughts by the author, who could not have had access to such intimate material.
All in all, though, Jackie After O covers a lot of Jackie’s life in an easy sometimes delicious summer read.