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BookBrowse Reviews Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard

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Jackie & Me

by Louis Bayard

Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard X
Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2022, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2023, 368 pages

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Historical fiction imagining the courtship between Jackie and John F. Kennedy, narrated by JFK's best friend, Lem Billings.

Louis Bayard's Jackie & Me offers a fictionalized version of the early relationship between John F. Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier that our First Impressions readers found fascinating. Out of 22 reviews, 18 gave the book four or five stars.

What it's about:

Jackie & Me is a well written and engaging book about the relationship between Kirk LeMoyne "Lem" Billings (the best friend of John F. Kennedy) and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, before she became the iconic first lady. Bayard writes in the voice of Lem, who develops a friendship with Jack Kennedy when they are students at boarding school. Bayard portrays Jackie Bouvier as "The scrapping career girl with homemade clothes and ladders in her stockings…who doubted herself at every move." Jack Kennedy initiates the friendship between Lem and Jackie since he is so focused on his political career that he doesn't have time for a proper courtship. Bayard uses a combination of fact and fiction to describe the friendship between Lem and Jackie, which appears to be a "vetting process" to determine Jackie's suitability as a politician's wife and addition to the Kennedy clan. Lem becomes a confidante to this "other" Jackie — a young woman who is naïve and vulnerable to the handsome, charismatic then-congressman from Massachusetts and his high-profile powerful family. The book offers interesting insight into this famous relationship that garnered interest from both the public and the press (Mel F).

For many, Jackie & Me inspired fond memories:

I was in high school/college during the "Kennedy years." They were almost like royalty to me. Reading Jackie and Me brought back so many memories of their lives and mine! I had to keep reminding myself that this book was fiction (Martha G). As a college freshman when JFK was elected, I wanted to be like Jackie. As much as I enjoyed Louis Bayard's novel The Courtship of Mr. Lincoln, I think Jackie & Me is even better. Enjoy the read and recall the era! (Jackie H). Bayard mentions all the stores and restaurants I remember here in Washington in the 1950s. The book is a real page-turner, it feels like you are inside the trio's love affair and complicated marriage. And because the media was not on 24/7 at the time, much of their private life was unknown to those of us on the outside (Sandra O).

Many readers felt Bayard strikes the right balance between fact and fiction:

Because I am of an age that I remember Jackie Kennedy Onassis, from her White House days to her death, I wasn't sure how I would like this alternative history. Much to my surprise and delight, I enjoyed it enormously. Kudos to Mr. Bayard for blending just the right amount of fact and supposition to produce a most enjoyable read (Gail K). I thoroughly enjoyed this book, yet I'm still not sure how to distinguish historical fact from the author's rendition of alternative history in this book. That is not a criticism, in fact my curiosity was piqued such that the book became a page-turner (Lauri Z). Oh, what a read! It is fiction so close to fact that one could believe it all (Sandra O).

Some appreciated how Bayard's character-driven work humanized JFK and Jackie and brought their world to life:

Bayard's depiction of Jack and Jackie's relationship rang very true to me and gave a sense of depth and humanity to their iconic images. Highly recommend (Elizabeth VF). There are many places in the book where the reader will learn new facts about Jackie Bouvier and her relationship with Lem Billings, and the doors he opened for her. The cast of characters is superb and Bayard has caught the subtle nuances of mid-century life (Lloyde N). I was surprised to learn in the acknowledgments that there was in fact a "real" Lem. This book peeled back the curtains on Camelot and I found the narrative of the Kennedy family's political and personal aspirations intriguing (Lauri Z). The author did a fantastic job developing their individual worlds, their relationships and the planned out paths they took. It made me appreciate the very lonely life Jackie had at that time and the very special friendship she and Lem had (Sharon J).

And it was deemed a good prospective choice for book clubs:

For those who love historical fiction, this is an intriguing read of Jaqueline Bouvier's life before and her courtship with the Kennedy Family. For book groups, there would be many subjects to discuss (Shawna L). The author's language and writing style swept me into the characters' emotions, actions and time. I found myself wondering "what if." I found it to be a convincing read, one I would recommend to book clubs, and a thoughtful portrayal of a man both loyal and lonely (Martha G).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2022, and has been updated for the July 2023 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Lem Billings and the Kennedys

Read-Alikes

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