And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

by Stephanie Marie Thornton

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451490926
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/10/2020
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 9,817
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Stephanie Marie Thornton is the USA Today bestselling author of American Princess and a high school history teacher. She lives in Alaska with her husband and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1



January 1952



The market seems to be recovering from its recent drop." John—my fiancé, although the word was still too slippery to make sense of-stood on the curb, oblivious to the bustle of people retrieving luggage from the trunks of yellow taxis and tail-finned Cadillacs. He wore his omnipresent gray flannel work suit, fingers twitching as if hovering over a calculating machine. "I really think the railroad division is going to carry the rest of the market, and American Telephone and Telegraph has been performing well in recent weeks too."



"You don't say?" I tried to summon a single iota of interest to recapture how endearing his stock market talk had been on Christmas Eve when we admired a shop window on Madison Avenue, how the crisp pennants of our breath in the cold air had mingled together before he'd asked me to marry him.



I'd invited John to Merrywood, my stepfather Hughdie's second estate outside Washington, DC, the better to convince my harridan of a mother—and me, if I was being honest—that I'd made the right decision. Instead, John spent most of the weekend debating Wall Street investments with my stepfather while I'd retreated unnoticed to the oak-paneled study. Normally the room's rich scent of antiquarian books and Oriental carpets and tobacco was the one place I could truly relax in this home that wasn't really mine, but I verily twitched with annoyance as I flipped the pages of Sybil, a novel written by Hughdie's cousin about a spirited woman who resigned herself into the necessity of marriage and thus settled into being a vegetable wife.



She became humdrum and boring, like broccoli.



I hated broccoli.



"That's it," I'd announced to my younger sister Lee—who had been christened Caroline, although no one ever called her that—as I slammed shut the book. "If I marry John, I'll become one of those dull country club wives who can only converse about the progress of their children's teeth. My entire future will be spent as Sybil Husted."



Lee had recently snagged a position as an editor's assistant at Harper's Bazaar and scarcely glanced up from the magazine's latest issue, its cover touting resort fashions with a breezy blonde whose legs stretched for five miles beneath her cotton shorts. "I thought you'd be Jacqueline Husted," she mused, waving a hand with fingernails bitten to the quick, "but I suppose you can change your first name, too, if you'd like. Very bohemian."



Jacqueline Husted.



Not for the first time, I worried that in marrying steady, number-crunching John Grinnel Wetmore Husted Jr., I'd be not so much settling down as settling. Not because he wasn't the gloriously wealthy New England husband my mother envisioned for me (even if his family was listed in the Social Register), and not because marrying him might mean bidding au revoir to trips to Paris, fox hunts with my New England friends, and my passion for journalism. But because before I'd met John, I'd been prepping Givenchy models for a shoot on the banks of the Seine—part of my short-lived stint for an internship I'd won at Vogue—and my stern-faced editor had warned me that, at twenty-two, I was teetering on the precipice of spinsterhood's fatal abyss, and I'd felt a chill go through me.



I didn't want to marry any of the young men I'd grown up with, not because of them but because of their sedate lives. Still, had I accepted John's proposal for fear that I'd be left on the shelf?



I scoffed, for surely I wasn't so mundane. Was I?



I'd paced Merrywood's opulent study, ready to climb the walls as my fingers drifted over the beloved leather-bound volumes that I'd read countless times—Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Baudelaire's Les Épaves, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Hugo's Les Misérables. I'd cringed when my tall, supposedly urbane fiancé admitted to scarcely recognizing the first-edition titles on the mahogany shelves, preferring his stock columns and account books instead.



I loved books and words more than my horses; could scarcely imagine a life devoid of stories and drama. My heroes were Mowgli, Robin Hood, Little Lord Fauntleroy's grandfather, Scarlett O'Hara. . . .



Not Sybil Husted.



Now, with the last of winter's icy cold seeping through my wool jacket, John retrieved his newly purchased suitcase from the trunk of my blue Chevrolet Fleetmaster and pressed a dry kiss to my forehead. "In fact, it looks like corporate bonds will remain steady-"



"John."



He blinked, my voice drawing him away from the elusive chimeras of stocks and bonds. It was perhaps a bit overdramatic to think it, but John might well be nattering on about American Telephone and Ford and General Electric ten, twenty years from now. "Yes, dear?"



Dear. It was so blasé, so tame. So John.



I recalled a different man I'd met once, who had made me feel so alive, as if everything under the golden summer sun was possible. I banished the thought, for that had been nothing.



There was no doubt that if I married John Husted, I'd live a languid, comfortable life for the rest of my days.



But I wanted more than comfort. I needed something—anything—more than this.



I pulled my hand back, tugged the sapphire-and-diamond sunburst ring from my finger and slipped it into his flannel pocket. "I'm sorry, John. I'm well and truly sorry."



He blinked. "I don't know what you mean. Sorry for what?"



I stepped back, needing to put space between us. "I'm afraid I can't marry you." From the way his expression fractured, I almost wished I could pluck the words from the air. Except that if I capitulated, ten years from now—or maybe even next year, or next month—I'd hate myself for it. And John would learn to hate me too.



"What do you mean, you can't marry me?"



"Exactly that. I wish I could, but I just-"



"Is it about the money?" He squared his shoulders. "Because you can tell your mother that seventeen thousand a year is a decent amount for a stockbroker."



I'd tried informing my aristocratic, chain-smoking mother of that already, but she'd only shaken her cigarette at me, sprinkling ash upon the Aubusson carpet as she paced and railed against my stupidity.



"No, it's not that-"



"Was it too fast?" John held the sparkling ring between his thumb and forefinger, his handsome face turning a splotchy shade of red. "You said you liked spontaneity, but I ruined it, didn't I?"



I drew a deep breath. "It's none of that, John. You and I are too different to be a good fit," I said because I owed him my honesty. "You deserve a woman who can make you far happier than I ever will."



And I deserved someone who could talk about something besides corporate stocks and bull markets.



I didn't wait for a response, only hesitated long enough to touch his cheek. "Good-bye, John. I'm really very sorry."



I didn't look back when I fled to the driver's side of my Chevrolet, instead slammed the door behind me and shifted into drive, intent on returning to Merrywood, where I planned to stay up until dawn reading a biography on Louis XIV to avoid thinking about what I'd just done.



All I want is a man with a little imagination. Is that too much to ask?



I was already twenty-two—a leftover daughter who couldn't live off her stepfather's generous goodwill and fifty-dollar-per-month allowance forever—and at twenty-five, society would deem me spoiled goods. It was no use railing against the firm rule that well-bred girls must make a good marriage if they wanted to continue living their lives. I was willing to play the game, but only on my terms.



Jacqueline Bouvier, I thought to myself as John shrunk away in the rearview mirror. You narrowly escaped making the biggest mistake of your life.



Or had I in fact just doomed myself?





I adjusted my white evening gloves, glanced up at the imposing Georgetown mansion, and repressed a thin shudder.



Another dinner party.



Every bit of me screamed to retreat the way I'd come, to shuck off the black peep-toe heels I'd borrowed from Lee (that were a size too small), and hightail it home before the last golden drops of May sunshine dissipated into hazy twilight. I'd tried to beg off from tonight's dinner after Charley Bartlett informed me there was a friend he wanted me to meet. Following my broken engagement, it seemed every Jack and Jill now had a friend, cousin, or neighbor they needed to introduce me to.



I was no fool. This was an ambush.



To make matters worse, Lee had recently proposed to Michael Canfield, a handsome Harvard-educated veteran of Iwo Jima, which made it impossible to ignore that while my sister was seizing each day by its throat, I was merely treading water. It was perhaps the first time she'd bested me at anything—save the time as girls when I'd hit her with a croquet mallet and she'd retaliated by pushing me down the stairs—and I didn't care for the feeling.



I ran a hand over my newly cropped hair-it was some small consolation that my mother no longer cracked three raw eggs over my head to rub the yolks into my long curls each night-before drawing a steadying breath and ringing the bell.



Afternoon teas, dinner parties, and then what? I thought as footsteps approached from inside. What are you going to do with your life, Jacqueline Bouvier?



I banished the question to the deepest, darkest corner of my mind. I'd worry about that later. Namely when I wasn't about to be enfiladed by Charley's stuttering, stamp-collecting cousin or his recently widowed former college roommate.



"Jackie, darling!" Spectacled and buttoned-down Charley enveloped me in a stifling hug before helping me shrug off my coat. "So glad you could make it!"



"I wouldn't miss one of your dinners for the world." I smiled despite myself, for as my journalistic consigliere, Charley had gifted me with late-night writing advice before several of my deadlines for my new position at the Washington Times-Herald. That had been my answer to the chasm of spinsterhood yawning before me, to get a job, and while I loved the work—and its twenty-five-dollar-a-week paycheck—I worried it wasn't enough.



Charley let me kiss both his cheeks, a habit I'd picked up while in school at the Sorbonne. Then in his rapid-fire mumble, "I have someone I want you to meet."



Just like his editorials, I thought. Straight for the jugular.



Charley raised an arm and gestured into the crowded living room. "Jack! Over here."



The room's sudden electricity raised the hair on the back of my neck as a tanned man with a mop of sandy-brown hair and a smile more powerful than an atomic bomb blast returned the wave. He wended his way toward us, looking as if he might have strolled straight off a Hollywood movie set.



Dear God, I thought, unable to stop myself from biting my lip. It's him.



He looked just as he had a year ago, except he'd traded his tuxedo for tonight's black evening suit with brown shoes. But even that sartorial mishap was endearing as I admired how well his shoulders filled out his dinner jacket and the way his smile crinkled the corners of his eyes in a most attractive way.



I wondered if he remembered that other dinner party from long ago.



Charley introduced us, beaming like a proud papa. "Jacqueline Bouvier, meet Congressman John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Although he's about to trade up and become Senator Kennedy."



One of the Hyannis Port Kennedys, I imagined my mother whispering in my ear. Staunchly Catholic. Politically aggressive. More ill-gotten money than the Rockefellers.



"My friends call me Jack," he said by way of greeting. His voice was unique but not unpleasant, the Bostonian accent so thick that his r's all but disappeared. He held out his hand and I shook it, surprised when he didn't give it the usual dead-fish treatment most men did, as if worried they might break poor, delicate little me. There was power there, and confidence too, so much that I couldn't help the grin that spread across my face, despite the fact that Jack gave no indication that he remembered me.



And why would he? He's Jack Kennedy, who just dethroned Rock Hudson for the title of America's Most Eligible Bachelor. You're just Jackie Bouvier.



That meant I had nothing to lose.



Toy a little while with the debonair congressman who acted last time as if he walked on water. See if that gets his attention.



"Are you the John F. Kennedy?" I asked as Charley disappeared on cue, leaving just Jack and me. "The same one who gets mistaken for a House page and recently addressed the floor of the House with his shirt untucked?" My grin deepened when Jack arched an eyebrow at me. "I read the article about you in the Saturday Evening Post. 'The Senate's Gay Young Bachelor,' wasn't it?"



And the Post was right: Jack Kennedy did have the innocently respectful face of an altar boy at High Mass. Although the wicked spark in his stormy Irish eyes would have sent many an altar boy to confession.



"That depends. Are you the Jackie Bouvier, who I once asked out for drinks, only to discover I was already the third wheel?"



A ripple of some foreign pleasure passed over my skin at the sound of him saying my name. I much preferred the French pronunciation of Jacqueline—Jack-leen—to plain old American Jackie, but Jack could call me Gertrude or Hortense for all I cared. "So you do remember."

Customer Reviews

And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
TheBookBag 3 days ago
I, like a lot of other people, am very enamored with the Kennedy's, the idea of Camelot, and in particular, Jackie. And They Called It Camelot was an excellent account, albeit fictionalized, of the life of Jackie, Jack, and the rest of the Kennedy family. I remember where I was and what I was doing when President Kennedy was shot. That event totally took over our lives and we obsessed to know everything about them, sitting glued to our TVs for days. This story took me back to that riveting time and let me take a step into Jackie's life to better understand her, her relationships, her family, and her loves. This is a very well written novel that delved into the life of Jackie O. I'm in awe of the research that the author had to have done to write such an interesting accounting of her life and the times. I highly recommend And They Called It Camelot.
Anonymous 6 days ago
This book depicts the life of Jackie Kennedy. The story is set and told in Jackie’s own voice. She experienced many ups and downs, even as a child. Her father was a charming, alcoholic philanderer, and she married someone who was a charming philanderer. The main difference was that Jack Kennedy was fabulously wealthy and Jackie seemed to crave wealth as the gateway to a lifestyle she wanted to live. Perhaps her life would have been different had she not lost her babies. Grief counseling was not well understood in the 1960s, and all the issues she faced had a cumulative effect on her. There was a lot of retelling and rehashing of the historical events surrounding her life, and this grew a bit tiresome.
DiiFL 10 days ago
The Kennedy family has always held a degree of mystique and grandeur to the world. As First Lady, Jacqueline seemed to hold the world at bay, almost hiding behind a magical veil that held her separate from outsiders. And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by Stephanie Marie Thornton gives readers a fictional view of Jackie O’s life, from her thoughts meeting JFK, to the tense air that flowed between her and most of the Kennedy clan. A strong piece of work, readers feel the moments in history that Jackie lived, felt her emotions, the iron will she cleverly held out of sight through the delicate façade she showed the public. Was she really a tiger in disguise? Her star shone brightly through turmoil, deceit and pain in this captivating version of the woman who unwillingly became an icon for not only a country, but the world. Gracious in the public eye, her life was not her own and now we get an imaginary look at how she handled a life no one could be prepared for. A fabulously entertaining read that does NOT contain dirty revelations, but makes each tidbit the world clung to feel more human, more real, and more invasive. Stephanie Marie Thornton has done a remarkable job of respectfully telling the tale of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a woman who seems to continue to touch the world. I received a complimentary ARC edition from Berkley! This is my honest and voluntary review.
Dobie1 11 days ago
One of this years best reads!
SuperReaderChick 15 days ago
I absolutely adore Thornton's writing and was so excited to read her novel about the iconic Jackie O. The very first chapter showed a spunky side of Jackie that I had never known. I was captivated by her and her need for a more exciting life. Things took a more dramatic turn from there and my heart ached for Jackie as she struggled (seemingly alone) through several serious heartaches. Thornton wrote this with such startling emotion and depth. And the punches just kept coming from there. My emotions were truly all over the place and hard to contain. I was completely fascinated with her strength and resilience through so many of life's struggles and ups and downs. Jackie's ability to survive and reinvent herself was conveyed brilliantly in this book by Thornton. I was able to feel like I was one with Jackie throughout much of the story. This quote from the book really sums up how I felt upon finishing: "If a person produces one book, they will have done something wonderful in their life." If this is the case, then Thornton has done many wonderful things, and has done it yet again with this novel. I can't wait to see what she writes next. 
SuperReaderChick 15 days ago
I absolutely adore Thornton's writing and was so excited to read her novel about the iconic Jackie O. The very first chapter showed a spunky side of Jackie that I had never known. I was captivated by her and her need for a more exciting life. Things took a more dramatic turn from there and my heart ached for Jackie as she struggled (seemingly alone) through several serious heartaches. Thornton wrote this with such startling emotion and depth. And the punches just kept coming from there. My emotions were truly all over the place and hard to contain. I was completely fascinated with her strength and resilience through so many of life's struggles and ups and downs. Jackie's ability to survive and reinvent herself was conveyed brilliantly in this book by Thornton. I was able to feel like I was one with Jackie throughout much of the story. This quote from the book really sums up how I felt upon finishing: "If a person produces one book, they will have done something wonderful in their life." If this is the case, then Thornton has done many wonderful things, and has done it yet again with this novel. I can't wait to see what she writes next. 
CharlotteLynnsReviews 18 days ago
I’d love to go back in time and live the world with Jackie Kennedy Onsassis. To see such an amazing woman navigate a life that wasn’t always easy, that had such a great love as she shared with Jack, and to see her love her children so entirely would be wonderful. She had style, grace, and a strong will that no one stood a chance when they pushed her against her morals. They Called it Camelot is a rare look inside the life of the former First Lady’s life. It is a celebration of the life of Jackie while also sharing the heartbreak that came along with her life in the limelight. There were times I had to remember that this was not a biography of Jackie, it is a historical fiction telling of her life. When I started the chapters of 1963, I slowed way down in my reading. I knew what happens in 1963 and was not ready to read Jackie’s perspective on her husband’s murder. The tears rolled down my cheeks as I read how she second-guessed what she could have done to save him, how she protected him even in death, and how different her life was going to be with Jack not in her life. The strength that she showed to the nation and for her kids while she mourned the love her of her life showed how truly strong she was. They Called it Camelot is a top read for 2020.
marongm8 18 days ago
This book was received as an ARC from Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I have heard so many variations of the Kennedy's livelihood but never as colorful or as intense such as this. Stephanie Marie Thornton goes in depth of the personal lives Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy lived while they were in Dallas all leading up to the infamous assassination of her husband. Her charm, her intelligence and her tenacity has carved her legacy as part of American history just as strong as her husbands. This book was also a great reminder of no matter who you are and what your place is in this world, everybody craves the normalcy in some way shape or form. I really connected with this book and I can't wait to share it with our library community. We will consider adding this title to our Historical Fiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
JulieFaillaEarhart---123 18 days ago
For fans of Melanie Benjamin’s “The Aviator’s Wife,” Paula McLain’s “The Paris Wife,” and for those interested in President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. It dawned on me while I was reading this that there are generations of Americans who may not know who the Kennedys were and the magic spell they had cast over the nation. They were our version of the royal family. They were a new generation, way back in the early 1960s, who were leading the United States. “A new generation of Americans, born in this century.” Framed by deaths of her husband, JFK, her brother-in-law, RFK , and her second husband, Aristole Onassis, this novel focuses on Jackie, her losses (and there were many), her gains and the struggles she had to carve a place of her own in the world. Told for in first person, from Jackie’s point of view, the story opens in 1952. I felt a little cheated when Jackie referred to her fiancé, John. It turned out that it was John Husted. But this is also the time that she meets Congressman John F. Kennedy from Massachusetts. And this is the story of Jackie, the woman she was, the wife and mother she became, the woman grew to become. Perhaps most importantly, this is the story of one of the greatest love stories of the 20th century. As I was reading, I felt like I was a fly who had perched on her shoulder and stayed there for more than 25 years. I felt her happiness and her sorrows. I also learned a lot about the woman who was the 35th First Lady and why the world fell in love with this shy and intelligent who would rather stay home than go to a State Dinner. I grieved over her miscarriage, the stillborn birth of a daughter, the death of an infant son, and that bloody day in Dallas so many years ago that is seared into many American’s minds and defined a generation. (One of the things on my list to ask God, should I be granted a seat in heaven, is who “really” killed JFK?) I felt the wind in her hair as she rode her beloved horses. I felt how she grew into a fierce lioness who did what she had to do to protect her children, even if it included marry a Greek jerk with more money than God. I loved this novel. I loved how it went behind the scenes at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, the calamity of the Bay of Pigs, the urgency of the Cuban Missle Crisis and her devastation at the loss of her beloved Jack. I would have like it to go on until her death, but the last two sentences sum it up best: “With Ari’s death, I was no longer Jackie Kennedy, or Jackie O. I was just Jackie.” I HIGHLY recommend “And They Called It Camelot.” It receives 6 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.
teachlz 18 days ago
Linda's Book Obsession Reviews "And They Called it Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis" by Stephanie Marie Thornton, Berkley Publishing, March 10, 2020 Stephanie Marie Thornton, Author of "And They Called it Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis" has written a poignant, memorable, intriguing, intense, and captivating novel. The Genres for this novel are Fiction and Historical Fiction.   I love the author's style of writing and her way of vividly describing the life and events of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. I am grateful to Berkley Publishing, BookBrowse Books and Stephanie Marie Thornton for an Early Advanced Reading Edition. I have always been interested in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis's history and legacy.  The author describes Jacqueline and her relationship with her mother and sister. Also discussed is her marriage to Jack Kennedy and her relationship to the Kennedys. How many women are America's First Lady? I especially enjoyed the way Jacqueline is described as a doting and devoted Mother. Also, Jacqueline's intelligence, artistic creativity, and fashion statements are also discussed. The author has used "poetic license" when it comes to actually mention some historical dates, and many of the situations are based on "What if.....?"  There is no doubt that Jacqueline had a heartbreaking and tragic life, and was able to move on, and survive. I would highly recommend this memorable novel for those readers who enjoy Historical Fiction.
literarymuseVC 18 days ago
And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Stephanie Marie Thornton. Penguin Publishing Group. March 2020. pb, 480 pp.; ISBN #: 9780451490926. Welcome to the world of Jack and Jackie – a romance beyond romance! It’s a world where we see Jackie’s sense of humor and mostly grit. She knew what she was marrying into but she married Jack Kennedy anyway. She knew he was a womanizer but he swore she was his only woman and proved it. It reads like an intimate memoir. It brings the reader to share in her tears and deepest fears. She met his family and got along with everyone of them. She had miscarriages and trials but kept her chin up until she had her children, Caroline and John. When she drives through Texas with Jack, we know how mind-numbing his assassination is and what it does to her. It takes her to levels of grief and yet it is her family and his that offer the support that keeps her going. Yes, it is Bobby who is there for her and gives her strength that she takes time to turn into her own. From then on, her stoicism guides her through the tragedy of Bobby’s assassination. From then on, she gets to raise her children and decides to travel to Greece. There she eventually marries Aristotle much to the chagrin of the Kennedy clan and Aristotle’s children. She does this for her children’s safety and it works. But marriage to Ari isn’t what she had hoped and she is hopelessly entangled in a stay at home, European style marriage and it isn’t until his death that she feels free. She then has the money and the dreams to become an editor, a successful one at that. Jackie has been married three times and spends the rest of her life doing what she loves. Throughout the book she shares her love of poetry and prose in small ways with each of her families, but only after life has taught her through joys, pain and trials does she celebrate her literary life with the world. Many readers do not know Jackie’s life but now they can get to know her intimately in a way that gives her reality a way to remember the days of Camelot – and beyond. Wonderful historical fiction!