Popsugar Reading Challenge 2020: Book 12

Prompt: A book with more than twenty letters in the title

I have quite a few books on the shelves that would fit this prompt. In the end, being unable to resist a new book, I grabbed a copy of And They Called it Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton. I can honestly blame this one on Bookstagram!

What it’s about?

From Goodreads:

An intimate portrait of the life of Jackie O…

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. 

What I think:

Jackie Kennedy Onassis is a style icon and legend and this book reimagines her life blending fact and fiction to present Jackie as a real person.

And They Called it Camelot begins when she meets John F. Kennedy. Looking for a suitable husband for a socialite Jackie breaks an engagement to her rich but boring boyfriend in favour of excitement with the charismatic politician. Jackie is clear from the outset that marriage to JFK isn’t going to be easy but the couple share a deep connection. Jackie is the stylish wife that the Kennedys need to succeed and whatever the difficulties they face there is a mutual dependence.

The book explores Jackie’s feelings about her husband’s infidelity, her mental health issues following miscarriage and the loss of children and her complex relationship with her sister and mother.

Jackie really comes alive as First Lady. Her passion for history and the renovation of the White House seem to give her a real purpose and despite the difficult political era she recalls her time in office as some of the happiest in her marriage. Jackie’s optimism and excitement about the future and the re-election campaign are heartbreaking to read with the foresight of the tragedy ahead.

The two most fascinating relationships in the book are with Robert Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis.

Morton portrays the close relationship she has with her husband’s brother. They both idolise JFK and are happy to play supporting roles in his life. their mutual grief after his death brings them even closer together and the writer hints at an affair without ever resorting to sordid gossip and invention. I’ve always wondered why Jackie remarried someone who left her public image so tarnished and the writer does a fantastic job of exploring her feelings at this time in her life.

I really enjoyed this book. It was slow to get into as it covers a long timespan, but from the election campaign onwards the pace picks up. Jackie is a fascinating, complex character who is simultaneously masterful at creating her public image and resentful of living in the public eye.

This is a good read if you have an interest in the Kennedys and provides and interesting interpretation on a well know story.

You can order And They Called it Camelot is available from the following link – but at this time it would be great to support your local independent bookshop if they are able to post books

Waterstones: click here

Amazon.co.uk: click here

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