Jacqueline in Paris
By Ann Mah
What it’s about?
From the bestselling author of The Lost Vintage, a rare and dazzling portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier’s college year abroad in postwar Paris, an intimate and electrifying story of love and betrayal, and the coming-of-age of an American icon – before the world knew her as Jackie.
In August 1949 Jacqueline Bouvier arrives in postwar Paris to begin her junior year abroad. She’s twenty years old, socially poised but financially precarious, and all too aware of her mother’s expectations that she make a brilliant match. Before relenting to family pressure, she has one year to herself far away from sleepy Vassar College and the rigid social circles of New York, a year to explore and absorb the luminous beauty of the City of Light. Jacqueline is immediately catapulted into an intoxicating new world of champagne and châteaux, art and avant-garde theater, cafés and jazz clubs. She strikes up a romance with a talented young writer who shares her love of literature and passion for culture – even though her mother would think him most unsuitable.
But beneath the glitter and rush, France is a fragile place still haunted by the Occupation. Jacqueline lives in a rambling apartment with a widowed countess and her daughters, all of whom suffered as part of the French Resistance just a few years before. In the aftermath of World War II, Paris has become a nest of spies, and suspicion, deception, and betrayal lurk around every corner. Jacqueline is stunned to watch the rise of communism – anathema in America, but an active movement in France – never guessing she is witnessing the beginning of the political environment that will shape the rest of her life—and that of her future husband.
Evocative, sensitive, and rich in historic detail, Jacqueline in Paris portrays the origin story of an American icon. Ann Mah brilliantly imagines the intellectual and aesthetic awakening of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, and illuminates how France would prove to be her one true love, and one of the greatest influences on her life
What I think:
This beautifully written book takes you back in time to post-war Paris as it rebuilds and looks to the future while coming to terms with the horrors of the war.
Jacqueline Bouvier is just 20 years old and in search of excitement and romance. Despite her privileged upbringing, she does not feel comfortable in her upper class New York world and longs to experience all that France can offer her.
The descriptions of Paris are so atmospheric and well researched. The shabby chic of a city that is still coping with rationing and shortages comes alive as Jacqueline and her college friends explore Paris.
The book is told in the first person – adult Jacqueline Kennedy is recalling her year in France and the impact it has on her. Ans it is truly a year of awakening.
She finds herself immersed in art and history, attending lectures and visiting galleries. She also experiences political debates and meets people with passionate ideals. The open French debates about communism are shocking to the American college girls where such ideas are viewed with suspicion.
Jacqueline also has the opportunity to fall in love and experience intimate relationships away from the ever watchful and judgemental eyes of her mother. Paris works its magic in an achingly romantic relationship with struggling writer John Marquand. Jack is gorgeous and intelligent. He sweeps her off her feet and shows her real Paris life. But the idealistic vision of a future with him is never going to meet with her parents’ approval.
Behind the glamour, excitement and freedom that Jacqueline and her friend experience in cafes and parties the darkness of the war years is ever-present. Every family has stories of loss and heroism. Jacqueline learns about courage and resistance her visit to Dachau is an extremely poignant episode of the novel.
This was an absolutely fascinating read that brings the young Jacqueline alive and shows the influence of France and Paris on the woman she becomes. Evocative and thoroughly enjoyable this is a captivating read.
About the author:
Ann Mah is a gastronomy and travel writer and journalist based in Paris and Washington, DC. She is the author of two novels, The Lost Vintage and Kitchen Chinese. She regularly contributes to the New York Times Travel section and his articles have also appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, The Best American Travel Writing 2017, and The New York Times Footsteps, among other publications.
Thank you to Harper Collins for my gifted copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful blog tour.