cover image All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy

All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy

Edward Klein, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, John F. Kennedy. Pocket Books, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-50187-7

As Klein, a former editor of the New York Times Magazine, notes in the acknowledgments for his book, people who knew the Kennedys have been increasingly willing to talk about them since Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's death--which means that a lot of what used to be gossipy conjecture is now being authoritatively fleshed out. Klein lists more than 200 people who agreed to be quoted with attribution for his book, and cites many more sources as well; what he has come up with can surely be regarded, therefore, as thoroughly vouched for. It is an extraordinary story, of the physically frail but sexually voracious President (among many ailments, according to Klein, was a longstanding venereal infection) in a battle of wills with a wife as determined to live her own life as he was to live his. Her passion as a mother seems to have been the only constant for her, having lost two children, one by miscarriage and the other at birth (the two others were born with difficulty); and the book begins and ends with her trying to ensure that John and Caroline hear only the best about their father. For Kennedy, despite all his charm, comes across as a ruthlessly selfish person who found close relationships, other than those with macho bragging companions, difficult. For all Klein's efforts to put some heart into the marriage--and it certainly seems clear that they were growing closer at the time the President was shot--much of their life together seems to have been inspired by opportunism on both sides. What will strike many readers is how emotionally difficult--""all too human""--the Kennedys were: he with his brash drive, his deep cynicism, his basic contempt for women (as learned from his father), she with her spoiled upbringing and passionate attachment to her own lamentable father. Klein's book is a swift, dramatic and colorful read, even if he hasn't painted quite the picture he seems to think he has. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to Vanity Fair; BOMC selection. (Aug.)