Jacqueline in Paris
reviewed by Annette Bukowiec
Goodreads | bestinhistoricalfiction
Jacqueline in Paris reimagines Jacqueline (née Bouvier) Kennedy Onassis’s junior year abroad, which later turns out to be a favorite year of her life, and one of her greatest influences.
In August 1949, Jacqueline breaks away from the Vassar College in New York, which felt isolated and constrained. She is making her way to Paris as she craves to experience freedom and what Paris has to offer: experimental theater, modern dance, and love.
She boards with de Renty family. Soon after her arrival, she finds out that the Madame de Renty (with her husband) were part of a spy ring during the war. Her husband died in prison, and she managed to survive north Germany, in the women’s concentration camp of Ravensbruck, where very few made it out alive. Jacqueline has a hard time imagining it as she knows Madame with a gentle voice and dressed in bright colors, but now, she recalls some cries in the morning hours.
After the war, the communists become the new enemy. Some start working as spies for the government again. Madame volunteers in assisting former deportees, who were deported from France to concentration camps. Her daughter is involved as well.
Jacqueline’s experience in Paris is probably much more than she has expected. From observing the post-war Europe, visiting Dachau in Germany, to experiencing different culture and mind-set especially when it came to communism, and falling in love.
Jacqueline meets John, who is an impoverished writer with poor prospects. He isn’t someone her parents would approve off. She feels pressure to make a brilliant match, which in her mother’s eyes is marrying politician from D.C.
John’s good friend is an active communist, which is shocking to Jacqueline that people openly know about it until a friend of hers explains that communism is like another political party in France. It’s not a taboo like in America.
There is someone Jacqueline suspects might have used her to extract information about her friends, classmates, and professors, who might be a spy for the Communist party. Then, another’s erratic behavior makes her second guess. Was she being deceived by someone she trusted the most?
Drawing from the real lives, the story explores the emotional and private side of Jacqueline Bouvier. Before she became an American icon, she was very private and guarded.
It involves a time when Europe was healing from the atrocities of WWII, raising itself from the rubble and bullet holes scarring the continent. A time, when people were grasping a new ideology, which felt threatening to some.
With luminous prose, wit, and respect the story offers suspense and romance, which are woven into a fast-paced story.
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