Picks and Pans Review: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: a Life

updated 03/27/2000 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/27/2000 01:00AM

by Donald Spoto

In January 1964, a little less than two months after an assassin ended her husband's life, the widowed former First Lady appeared on TV to thank the world's mourners for their sympathy. "That broadcast," the author notes in this, the latest biography to examine Jackie Kennedy Onassis, "was the last time she spoke of herself and her feelings to the world at large." In the chronology of her life, the event fell roughly at the midpoint: Jackie was 34 and would have another 30 years.

In the chronology of this book, the event occurs a little more than two-thirds of the way through and divides a work clearly stronger when Jackie had a consensual, if still guarded, relationship with the public and the press, on whose copious coverage the book heavily relies. Spoto, who has made a reputation with biographies of Alfred Hitchcock and Laurence Olivier, is nonetheless not averse to speculation when the information simply does not exist, as when he writes, "Whether Jackie returned from Europe as a virgo intacta may never be known: On this matter, she kept her counsel." Would that he had done the same. While Spoto admits that Jackie and JFK "took to the grave the details of their private moments," he does tell us she called the President "Bunny" as a rib on his insatiable sexual appetite. Such tidbits keep a reader engaged. (St. Martin's, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Jackie O, so-so

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