Love, Jackby Gunilla Von Post, Carl Jones
Spanning two continents and the Atlantic Ocean, unfolding over a six-year period beginning in 1953, Love,
He was a dashing young senator pursued by an Italian contessa and the imposing forces of his destiny. She was a 21-year-old Swedish aristocrat away from home for the first time. Their accidental meeting at a port in the Riviera changed both their lives forever.
Spanning two continents and the Atlantic Ocean, unfolding over a six-year period beginning in 1953, Love, Jack is the story of a transcendent but heartbreaking love between two people at the peak of their youth and beauty, a love that seemed impossible but could not be denied. Here is an intimate portrait of John Kennedy never before seen: a gentle, kind, and caring man, intensely passionate and full of life but a man who faces great difficulty adjusting to the demanding role history and his father have assigned him.
Driven by his love for Gunilla von Post, Jack risked the sort of exposure that might have ruined his career and was willing to endure debilitating pain to cross the ocean for her. For the sake of her passion, Gunilla risked the ostracism of her family and friends, ready to turn her back on the country she loved.
Love, Jack is the heartwarming account of a history-making romance, a "brief, shining moment" before Camelot, before an assassin's bullets shattered the hopes of a nation a moment in time that Gunilla von Post is at last ready to share with the world.
This is a lover with a difference, however, a woman whom Kennedy first wooed before he was president and even before he was married (though he was engaged) to Jackie. The author was a lissome, 21-year-old, upper-class Swede on vacation at the French Riviera when she had a chance encounter with then Senator Kennedy. They dined and danced and sat on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, where he confessed that he was to be married the next week but added, "if I had met you one week before . . . I would have cancelled the whole thing." As we know, he did not cancel, but a half-year later was writing to Gunilla that he would be returning to Europe and would like to meet. The rendezvous was in Sweden and according to von Post, they fell into bed where his "tenderness was a revelation." The romance went on for another few years, mostly long-distance, says von Post, while Kennedy struggled with his father's dominance and his own ambition. Father Joseph and the prospect of the presidency won, although JFK suggested at one point that Gunilla establish herself in New York City's Carlyle Hotel, later infamous as a presidential playground. Gunilla wisely refused, going on to marry a Swedish notable, bear children, be tragically widowed, remarry, divorce, and lose a child through leukemia. She identified with Jacqueline's similar experiences. But she kept the letters from and the memories of the riveting young Jack Kennedy and is sharing them with us now (aided by Johnes, the author of two biographies). A good portion of this book is also devoted to establishing her credentials as a "good girl," one of JFK's true loves.
A sweet but unconvincing effort to depict JFK as an only somewhat unwilling victim of his father's dreams.
- Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
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Read an Excerpt
As a grand finale to the week, I arranged for us to be invited to spend our last night at the home of my old friend Gustav Hagemann, who had a lovely mansion just outside Ystad, on the southern tip of Sweden. Called Ruuthsbo, Gustav's estate was not so far away from Malmo, where the Bulltofta Airport (now called Sturup) was -- from which Jack and Torby would depart for France the next morning.
But while planning the end of our week, I became sad, and Jack noticed it. The night before we were due at Gustavs, I became very quiet as Jack and I, along with Torby, headed back to the annex after dinner.
"Is anything wrong?" Jack asked.
"Tomorrow well be at Ruuthsbo, with people all around, and then you leave," I said unhappily.
"I love you, Gunilla. I won't really be leaving you."
My temper flared a little bit. "But you are leaving, Jack. This has been like a dream, and then...what happens? You just disappear and that's it?"
"No, no. I love you, Gunilla. I'll do everything I can to be with you."
"What will you do, Jack?"
"I will talk to my father as soon as I leave here."
The control Joe Kennedy had over Jack's life was becoming more and more clear to me.
"Is that the way you live your life? Doing what your father wants you to do? Does your father decide everything?"
"No, Gunilla. Of course not," Jack said quietly. But he was getting angry, too. "I won't disappear. I promise that. You'll hear from me. Sooner than youthink."
Up until then, Torby hadn't said a word, but now he did. We stopped walking for a moment and he turned to me. "He means it, Gunilla," he said sincerely. "Jack will be in touch. You'll see."
I wanted to believe Jack and Torby. And I didn't want anything to spoil the time we had left. The next afternoon, we set out for Ruuthsbo.
Gustav Hagemann has always been one of my closest friends. He always had a great weakness for me, so even though I'd announced that I was coming to visit and bringing two wonderful American friends with me, I never let on that I was in love with one of them.
Gustav greeted us with open arms and was accommodating and helpful with Jack, who was using his crutches again, but with protestations that it was just to be safe and that I should stop worrying about his back.
We all sat down and had some aquavit and talked, and soon several bright and charming friends of Gustav's, as well as his daughter, Lis Stjernsward, who became a famous portrait painter, began to arrive. Then we were all ushered into the dining room, where we were treated to one of the most famous of Swedens traditional feasts: a crayfish party. Besides the cold crayfish in salt water and dill and a lot of schnapps, there is a cheese called vasterbottencheese, which is served with toast, and a light meal of filet mignon with vegetables, and for dessert, a light home-baked apple pie with whipped cream. And we sing and say "skoal" all the time. It was really quite festive, especially with the backdrop of Ruuthsbo, with candles flickering against the paneled walls and rows of scenic pictures. I thought it was a lively but sad ending to such a special and tender week.
But Jack's attentions to me must have been more obviously affectionate than I knew, because over the course of the meal Gustav's manner changed appreciably. I realized by the time dessert was served that the Master of Ruuthsbo had been under the misapprehension all along that I was really coming to visit him, and that my American accomplices were simply along for the ride.
At the end of the evening, our disappointed host, suspecting that Jack and I were together, rose up and, with a fixed smile on his face, said, "Well, Jack, I've enjoyed our conversation. Allow me to show you to your room?"
Jack struggled to his feet and Gustav politely ushered him out. I heard the clunk, clunk of his crutches ascending one flight of steps, then another, and I wondered, why is Gustav putting Jack up two flights to a guest room on one of the higher floors?
Gustav returned to the sitting room. "My dear, he said to me, I'm sure you are very weary after your drive. Do come with me." He took my hand, and I thought he was about to lead me to another upstairs bedroom, but no. To my surprise, he steered me toward a room on the ground floor.
Gustav was really furious with me, but I pretended not to notice. His plan wasn't a success. When the house was asleep, I tiptoed upstairs to Jack. His light was still on, and he was waiting for me.
I fell into his arms and we embraced. Jack Kennedy made love with a surprising innocence and with all of his heart. His back troubles might have limited him, but during our summer week in Sweden, the depth of our emotions took care of whatever physical limitations Jack had. I was sensitive to his pain, and I could tell that he was having a particularly bad spell. My memory returned to the period just after we met, when I came down with typhoid fever. I remembered how horribly weak and uncomfortable I had felt, but at least I recovered. Jack's pain might never go away. I used every ounce of compassion to comfort him, to stroke and massage his body where he needed it, to make sure he felt protected, comfortable, and loved. He had done this for me, so I did everything I could to show him that I thought he was as beautiful as he made me feel.
That last night was truly wonderful. He said, repeatedly, "I love you, Gunilla. I adore you. I'm crazy about you and I'll do everything I can to be with you." I was completely involved in our intimacy, and I felt the mood was both perfect and fragile. We made love with passion and youthful tenderness.
Later, I pulled the coverlet away, let it fall back over him, stood, and put on my robe and slippers. I walked across the cool painted floorboards and lingered in the doorway for one last look, recalling the touch of his skin, the soft yet strong feel of his lips when we kissed, and his always-tousled hair. I looked at him in the big four-poster bed, then ran back and hugged him one more time. Finally, I rose again to leave.Before shutting the door, I could just make out his face as his eyes began to close. I left him, and as usual returned to my room.
I woke up early in my bed downstairs, but I stayed there, looking at the ceiling and thinking. I felt a persistent dread because this might be the last time I would see Jack. I knew he'd changed my life. Our need for each other was strong and mutual, but how, where, and when could this continue? Trying to shake away these thoughts, I got up.
By the time I was dressed and went to the breakfast room, Jack and Torby were already there, along with Gustav, who looked first at me, then at the ceiling, then down the hall toward where I had come from. I don't know what he thought, or where he imagined I had spent the night, but he was even-tempered and polite to all of us.
After breakfast, we thanked Gustav for a wonderful time and climbed into the car. This time I drove, because I knew the way to Malmo, outside of which is Bulltofta Airport. I was getting sadder and sadder, but I kept smiling. Jack didn't sing. Torby engaged us all in small talk about our pleasant evening and the charm of Ruuthsbo.
Upon our arrival at Bulltofta, Torby -- the perfect comrade and soul of discretion -- said, "I'll take our bags and meet you at the gate." He walked off with the suitcases and left us alone for a few minutes. I couldn't help but feel deja vu; I'd been through something like this before, two years ago in France. but how different this was, really. Piaf's song, Je ne regret rien, passed quickly through my mind.
I kept a cheerful expression pinned onto my face, trying to cover the gnawing heartache I felt inside, willing myself to suppress the tears that were misting my sight. We kissed a long and lingering good-bye. Once again, Jack reached out and pushed the lock of hair off my forehead. Then he cupped the right side of my face with his palm and fingers, holding my cheek in his large hand like a precious treasure. Tearing his gaze away, he looked at his watch and said, "It's time, Gunilla." We went into the terminal.
Inside, Torby and I hugged, and then I put my arms around Jack and held on to him for many moments. Finally we broke our embrace, and they went off to catch their plane. They disappeared through an ordinary door out onto the airfield, and were gone.
I swallowed very hard, but the lump in my throat remained. I didn't stay, or watch them fly away. I drove back to Bastad very fast, and as the miles whipped by, I could not dismiss the possibility that he would come back into my life, someday, somewhere.
And he did.
Meet the Author
Gunilla Von Post was born into the Swedish aristocracy in 1932. Today she divides her time between Palm Beach, Florida, and a villa in Switzerland. She has two daughters, a son, and several grandchildren.
Carl Jones is the author of two previous biographies and lives in New York City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Although Jack is married he proves that he still has it. He is a love sick little puppy who doesn't seem to be getting enough from Jackie so he goes after some Swedish hussie. There are some out there who may think that this is mean, but its the rotten truth, and they know it! There is a great scene in which the Swedish hussie needs to get a prescription to Jack or he will die, full of sexual tension. Yowza!
This Book is great if you put aside that Jack is married at the time. You see a new side of our 35th president. I can't help but feel guilty reading this, like I am reading someone's diary. But Gunilla wrote this and she wanted to share her story but, the question is Would Jack want to share his story? Anyways this book is great. Great description and writing!!!