Hello book lovers, welcome back! As usual, today’s #TalkTuesday interview is also our #TeaserTuesday and First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros! Enjoy!
Download the BOOK CLUB KIT HERE! (PDF From Penguin Random House).
And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton brings to life one of America’s iconic figures, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Although much has been written and told, readers who think they know everything about her legacy will find that there are actually new and meaningful true revelations with this intimate portrait.
The former First Lady was glamorous, strong, intelligent, politically savvy, charming, and stylistic. She was able to adapt to the many difficult situations thrown at her. This legend was full of grace, dignity, with a potent strength to survive.
Although billed as a novel it is more like a memoir, with Jackie telling the readers her thoughts and the events of her life. There is a glimpse of her upbringing in a broken home with a harsh mother, to becoming a debutante, horsewoman, and journalist. But the real story begins after she met Congressman John F. Kennedy, marries him, and they begin their journey, becoming America’s royalty. By telling the story in Jackie’s voice, readers are able to feel her pain and to celebrate her triumphs. They grieve with her over three of her children’s death, the many painful episodes of JFK’s infidelity, and that bloody day in Dallas when Camelot ended. But they will also cheer as they see her formidable ways, not shying away from her husband’s philandering, but confronting him head on. The last few years of their marriage they became partners where both recognized their love for each other and how they respected, needed, and depended on one another.
The last part of the book explores the close relationship between Bobby Kennedy and Jackie, how each gained solace and strength from one another as they tried to cope with President Kennedy’s assassination. Then there was the marriage to Aristotle Onassis, mainly to protect her children. The novel ended on a positive note with Jackie Kennedy Onassis just becoming “Jackie,” making a career for herself as an editor. The story concluded in 1977 with the dedication of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
John F. Kennedy wrote a book entitled Profiles In Courage about historical figures, acts of integrity, bravery, and mental toughness. After reading this fictional account by Thornton, it becomes apparent that had Profiles In Courage been written today, Jackie Kennedy would have been included. Throughout her life she showed the most noble of human values and a formidable spirit with incredible strength and resilience.
Elise Cooper: Why Jackie Kennedy Onassis?
Stephanie Marie Thornton: I knew I wanted to do another famous American of the twentieth century. Although there were shelves of books, enough to fill a library, there were not any fictionalized accounts. I also taught history and realized from my generation (I just turned forty) to the current generation they are not aware of what she did. Jackie lived an incredible and tragic life. I wanted to show how she was more than a pretty face married to an assassinated President.
EC: Is a lot of the events and thoughts fictionalized?
SMT: I would like to think my version is lightly fictionalized because there was a lot of research I did to make it as authentic as possible. I tried to put most everything in that was true, but if not, I wrote it in the author’s notes. It was not necessary to embellish their lives.
EC: Why write it in the first person?
SMT: I did it in order to put the reader there and in her thoughts. I wanted them to be a fly on the wall and see her amazing life through her eyes. I think it was a more powerful story because people could realize what it was like to be Jackie Kennedy and experience all those events.
EC: Were the nicknames true?
SMT: Yes, she called JFK bunny, Joe Kennedy Sr. Poppy Doodle, Caroline bunny, and she was called either Jacks, kid, or kiddo. BTW: John-John was not a nickname the Kennedys called John Jr. The media heard JFK calling his son, John, and after he did not respond the President said it again. So, the media dubbed him John-John.
EC: How would you describe Jackie?
SMT: Elegant, classy, dignified, and poised. She was very private. She was the essence of what a First Lady should be. She has a persona of being a scholar and loner, but also a free-spirit and spontaneous. Because she played so many different roles, she called on these different aspects. She exceeded what her predecessors had done by restoring the White House, all her good will trips, even some without the President. I put in a scene during his 1960 campaign for President where she showed her worth by speaking to a New Orleans crowd in French. There were even times she was not politically correct. For example, she and JFK cursed like sailors, but in my book, she only cursed in French.
EC: How would you describe JFK?
SMT: There were two book quotes that typified him. “Jack holds everyone in the palm of his hands,” and “The potency of Jack’s allure, his ability to make you feel as if you were the only person on earth who mattered to him, even if it was only a façade.” He did make people feel like they were the most important people in the room, until he moved on to the next person. He is a war hero, a man of action, who had great ideas including the Peace Corps and going to the moon. I think he liked to compartmentalize. He was terribly charismatic.
EC: Yet, he also had affairs?
SMT: The hardest part of the book was to walk the fine line of why Jackie stayed with him. She obviously loved him very much, but there were times he was such a dismal husband. She had two miscarriages and he was not at her bedside. She did think about divorcing him over his infidelities considering her mother had done it. Yet, she stayed with him, something I had to grapple with.
EC: It seems around 1962 the marriage took a more positive turn?
SMT: I agree. He was there after Patrick was still born and then there was the Cuban Missile Crisis. They got much closer. In fact, JFK gave her the same gift he gave all the ex-comm team that handled the Cuban Missile Crisis; although hers was engraved JBK + JFK. Maybe he realized this woman he married was very impressive. What was very heartfelt is when he had picked out a Christmas present for Jackie, and she received this beautiful ring after his death.
EC: Marilyn Monroe was a mess?
SMT: I will never be a Marilyn Monroe fan. The way she sang Happy Birthday Mr. President was bad enough. But then she actually called the White House. She also dressed up in a photo shoot as Jackie, while the First Lady was away on a good will trip. She kept claiming she was going to marry the President. I think at this point she was not mentally stable.
EC: What was Jackie’s relationship with Bobby Kennedy?
SMT: It was intriguing. Both of them were so broken after the assassination and became incredibly close emotionally. They leaned on each other. He was her anchor, friend, guard, and comforter. She became his advisor and confidant who encouraged him to pursue his ideals even though she had hesitations.
EC: Jackie was the one to pull the plug on Bobby?
SMT: Yes. After he was shot she flew immediately to his bedside and was the one to sign the paperwork to take him off life support. For me, this was heartbreaking. Of all the Kennedys in that room at that time she was the one who signed the paperwork to let him go.
EC: What was her relationship with Joe Kennedy Sr.?
SMT: He was a father figure to her. Initially he saw her as someone who could further Jack’s career. But after JFK had his back surgery he came to appreciate her. Once she came into her own, she was the Queen of the family.
EC: Her marriage to Onassis?
SMT: She knew that people would hate it, but did it anyway. I am not convinced she would have done it had Bobby not have been assassinated. I put in a line in the book, “They are playing ten little Indians with the Kennedys and my kids are next.” Everything she did was for Caroline and John Jr. She was a great mother. I think she made her way out of the depression after both assassinations for her children. Because Onassis was filthy rich and could provide security to keep them safe, I think she was willing to go to the ends of the earth for her children.
EC: Your next book?
SMT: It will be out next summer. Very few people know about Elizabeth Bentley. She was an American spy and member of the Communist Party who served the Soviet Union during WWII. In 1945 she defected from the Communist Party and Soviet intelligence and worked with the FBI.
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.
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros
I’m also taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros
Every Tuesday Vicki @ I’d Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon.
Looking forward to visiting your blogs and seeing what your Teaser Tuesday and First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, are this week!
Luv Sassy x
Disclosure: This post may contain compensated affiliate links and/or sponsored content.