In GRACE & POWER: THE PRIVATE WORLD OF THE KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE, New York Times bestselling author Sally Bedell Smith takes us inside the Kennedy White House with unparalleled access and insight. Having interviewed scores of Kennedy intimates, including many who have never spoken before, and drawing on letters and personal papers made available for the first time, Smith paints a richly detailed picture of the personal relationships behind the high purpose and poiltical drama of the twentieth century's most storied presidency.
At the dawn of the 1960s, a forty-three-year-old president and his thirty-one-year-old first lady – the youngest couple ever to occupy the White House – captivated the world with their easy elegance and their cool conviction that anything was possible. Jack and Jackie Kennedy gathered around them an intensely loyal and brillant coterie of intellectuals, journalists, diplomats, international jet-setters and artists. Perhaps as never before, Washington was sharply divided between the “ins” and the “outs.”
In his public life, JFK created a New Frontier, stared down the Soviets, and devoted himself to his wife and children. As first lady, Jackie mesmerized foreign leaders and the American people with her style and sophistication, creating a White House renowned for its beauty and culture. Smith brilliantly recreates the glamorous pageant of the Kennedy years, as well as the daily texture of the Kennedys’ marriage, friendships, political associations, and, in Jack’s case, multiple love affairs.
Smith’s striking revelations include new information about what drew Jack to his numerous mistresses – and what effects the relationships ultimately had on the women; about the rivalries and resentments among Kennedy’s advisers; and about the poignant days before and after Kennedy’s assassination.
Smith has fashioned a vivid and nuanced portrait not only of two extraordinary individuals but of a new age that sprang to life around them. Shimmering with intelligence and detail, GRACE AND POWER is history at its finest.
Smith, a Vanity Fair contributing editor (and biographer of Princess Diana and Pamela Harriman, among others), does a workmanlike job of narrating familiar scenes from the Kennedy White House, aka Camelot. Although publicity for this volume is at pains to emphasize that Smith has interviewed "scores of Kennedy intimates, including many who have never spoken before," the few new witnesses unearthed by Smith attended the same parties, concerts and picnics as all the other sources we've heard from in previous years. So once again Smith waltzes through portraits of the Kennedys entertaining, with greatly varying degrees of success, the likes of Gore Vidal, Ben Bradlee, William Walton and JFK's frequent "squeeze" Mary Meyer. Not a few of the people who loom large in Smith's volume (Bradlee, Theodore White, Paul "Red" Fay, Vidal, Lee Radziwill, Walton, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Dave Powers and Ken O'Donnell among them) have previously as Smith's profuse footnotes attest written their own accounts of the Camelot scenes in which they play. Endeavoring to interweave her somewhat redundant yet eloquently rendered social history with the political history of the Kennedy administration, Smith tends on occasion to oversimplify and understate major strategic discussions and initiatives, these being sketched much better in such books as Richard Reeves's President Kennedy. For those who seek yet another highly readable account of the White House milieu shaped by John and Jackie Kennedy the place we've all gotten to know so well through the years Smith's book does the job. 48 pages of photos not seen by PW.