When "Jackie Oh!" was published in 1978, the Chicago Tribune reviewed it as "Scandalous...a shock a page!" Three-plus decades later? Not so much. Apparently what was big, scandalous news back then has seeped out in other publications, so that a current reader of the book who's been remotely interested in the Kennedys over the years won't find anything new here.
I didn't read "Jackie Oh!" in 1978 because the critics panned it as trash. Why then did I bother to read this out-of-print book thirty-four years later? Because I suspected that the trash was true after googling Jamie Lee Auchincloss, Jackie's half-brother, to see what his life has been like. My search turned up a comment by "Jackie Oh!" author Kitty Kelley that when she was promoting a subsequent book, Jamie Auchincloss stood up in the audience and blurted that everything he'd told her was true and that now his sister didn't speak to him. So I ordered a used copy of this paperback, and sure enough Jamie Auchincloss is quoted by name giving numerous personal tidbits about Jackie, her sister Lee and the rest of the family. He was in his late twenties when he blabbed indiscriminately to Kelley--old enough to understand how his famous half-sister, known for guarding her privacy and for icing people out of her life who violated that privacy, was going to react. I wonder what motivates a family member to "tell all." Does a vicious-gossip gene exist that Auchincloss and Kelley share?
This book is definitely a Jackie tell-all. For being what I assume is an accurate dish (since Kelley was never sued by Jackie), I have given it four stars. Does having finally read it change how I view Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis? No. If anything, reviewing between the covers of this book Jackie's putting up with JFK's womanizing, her love of luxury and shopping binges, fierce protection of privacy, negotiations with Onassis' estate, etc. makes me understand her more than ever. Considering the parental strife which pervaded her early childhood, the divorce which ripped her young world apart and the subsequent tug-of-war her parents fought over her, being, with Lee, poor outsiders in the wealthy Auchincloss family, etc. certainly makes her adult behavior understandable. Jackie's adult behavior, like all of ours, is a product of childhood experiences--unless and until we examine them, become conscious of our behaviors' genesis, and free ourselves to act differently. After Onassis, she apparently began psychotherapy, as I recall reading long ago Jackie's saying that she no longer wanted to form her identity through a man. And it was at that point in her life that Jackie built an identity as an editor, an editor whose authors both respected her and held her in great affection. That is according to the jacket copy of the 2011 book, "Jackie as Editor...," which is next on my pile of books to read.
Finally, a couple of statements made by Ms. Kelley in "Jackie Oh!" which need to be corrected: Jackie was not, "the youngest first lady in history." That distinction belongs to Dolly Madison, who was twenty-something when she entered the White House, as opposed to Jackie's thirty-one. Janet Lee and Jamie Lee Auchincloss were not Jackie's "step-sister" and "step-brother" as Kitty Kelley repeatedly refers to them. They were Jackie's half-sister and half-brother, as Jackie's biological mother was also their biological mother. Yusha, Tommy and Nina Auchincloss were Jackie's step-brothers and step-sister because they were the children of Jackie's step-father, Hugh D. Auchincloss and biological mothers not her own. When an author makes such obvious blunders, it makes a reader wonder what else she's screwed up.