Rating: 3 Stars
First things first, if you have read other reviews of this book - I must have had a newer edition than others. I noticed a few people mentioned historical inaccuracies with dates. No big deal, just little things like the date of Kennedy's assassination *sarcasm*. The copy I read did speak of the assassination with the correct date of November 22nd, while others stated their copies said November 23rd. To me that is a pretty big deal and not something that can be easily dismissed. This date is a defining moment for so many, not least of all the very subject that the author was writing about. I was wary of other information I might come across, and often found myself checking many dates when mentioned. I did not find any other inaccuracies, but I may have also missed some.
I feel like I have a working knowledge of the Kennedy family and of Jackie, but I have yet to read anything solely dedicated to discussing her life. I was hoping to find that here, given the title, but got something a bit different. I learned quite a few new things about Jackie in the end, though it was not all I expected.
I made a note very early on of how much space was being dedicated to to the back story of Jackie and JFK, how they met, etc. I know very little of the early years of their courtship and marriage, so while I was expecting far more about Jackie's life AFTER her two marriages, I could still appreciate this aspect of the story. I did feel like this was necessary also, in order to show Jackie's career ambitions before marrying JFK, thus tying it to her life after Onassis died. The problem with this necessary thing though, is that in connecting Jackie's previous life to this 'Year After O', it essentially becomes a biography of her life, albeit a surface-skimming one. So much time is spent on her life prior to 1975, that essentially, the 'After O' part does not start until about 55%. The book itself, epilogue included, then ends at 83%. So, despite the title, less than 30% of the book is actually devoted to Jackie's life in that year after she became a widow for a second time. The rest then consists of notes and bibliography.
Every time I read something about Jackie, I feel a true connection to her and I think she is someone I would have liked to have known. Her love of the arts, reading, photography, and so on, are all things I hold in high esteem. When I first learned of her spearheading the efforts to save Grand Central Station, I knew we were kindred spirits. I have a special place in my heart for these beautiful old train stations (it still bums me out that Penn Station could not be saved, what a loss!) and am so glad she was able to help save this one.
I appreciated the use of Jackie's own letters, so we can be sure the words we are reading are hers. If you have read previous reviews of mine, you might know I am not a fan of re-creating conversations for manuscripts, unless the conversation was recorded and/or written down word-for-word. There are too many possible errors or misinterpretations and I don't like it. That did occur a few times with the book, which I did not care for.
Whether you know a lot about Jackie or not, I feel like there is some value with this text. It is by no means perfect, but I can appreciate what it tried to do, in looking at a very specific time in Jackie's life. The problem with trying this, is that so much of what happened in Jackie's past up to this point made her into the person she was, and it is almost impossible to tell the story of her later years without connecting to the early years.
"In many ways, she was at her best under the worst circumstances."
I don't now if any other statement could better describe Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.