Fresh from her well-received life of Queen Elizabeth II, the English historian and biographer Sarah Bradford turns her hand to America's own answer to royalty, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Painstakingly detailed, impressively fair, the result is the most definitive account yet of a woman who captured the imagination of the American public like no First Lady before or after her. Bradford seems to have interviewed almost everyone who had ever been intimate with Onassis, including George Plimpton, Gore Vidal, Joan Kennedy, and even a few ex-lovers. Most notably of all, Jackie's sister Lee Radziwill speaks with unexpected frankness about the mixture of rivalry and affection that marked their relationship since childhood. Jackie-lovers, take note: this is no hagiography, and its subject certainly comes off as no saint.
As gracious as this American icon could be, she also had moments of coldness and even greed, including a particularly shocking moment by the bedside of Ari Onassis's dying son. Yet, in the end, non-airbrushed anecdotes like these only serve to make this most private of public figures even more fascinating. Jackie was, as Bradford writes, "a complex woman of many facets, concealed insecurities and intricate defense mechanisms, a strong urge toward the limelight contrasting with a desire for privacy and concealment.... Behind the mask of beauty and fame lay a shrewd mind, a ruthless judgment of people, antennae finely turned to any sign of pretentiousness or pomposity, and a wry, even raunchy sense of humor." The figure who emerges from subsequent pages is as compelling as the heroine of any novel, and it is to Bradford's credit that she doesn't seem to have fallen completely under her subject's spell. Her approach is sympathetic, but never fawning; candid, but never sensationalistic. For those who are curious not about Jackie's glamour but about its source, America's Queen offers an unprecedented look at the flesh-and-blood woman behind the Camelot myth.