I’m not the biggest historical fiction reader–World War II makes me terribly sad, as it should–but I love discovering historical fiction about periods in history I don’t know much about but featuring people I’ve heard of. Enter, Jackie O, wife of JFK, and then, as we all know, wife of shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Well, how did she end up there? It was complicated, according to this novel, which mixed historical fact with spicy drama and the story of two famous women who got wrapped up with one infamous man.
It’s the late 1950s. Maria Callas, a renown opera singer, is not feeling the passion in her marriage anymore, and she happens to meet Aristotle Onassis at a party and immediately they are drawn together. At the same time, Jackie Kennedy, back in the US, is struggling with the balance in her marriage as her husband pursues politics. Both women find themselves unhappy in unique ways, and as the years pass, they find themselves hurtling towards infamy and a historical moment we all know: 11/22/63. President Kennedy is dead, Jackie is distraught, but so is Maria, because it’s been years, and Aristotle still hasn’t married her. Will the opera singer be replaced by the First Lady? Will Aristotle be able to give Jackie the safety she craves? What will Maria do when Aristotle keeps calling?
This is an interesting historical novel because while it’s focused on these two women–Jackie and Maria–and is KIND of a love triangle, we know how it ends.From the first scene with Jackie we know her husband, the president, will be killed. We know she’ll marry Aristotle Onassis. I struggle with historical movies where I know the ending–aka, the moon landing, the Pentagon Papers, etc–but since I didn’t know almost anything about Maria Callas, or really Jackie’s second marriage, I was still compelled by this. It was definitely a character driven novel, and I felt like Paul very clearly developed Maria more than Jackie. It makes sense though—Callas is lesser known, and writing Jackie is probably daunting. I was compelled by this story, even though I knew how it ended. It probably could have been a hundred pages shorter, I didn’t feel like it developed Jackie’s interest in Aristotle enough, but I enjoyed learning more about this period and it led me down a picture rabbit hole trying to match paparazzi photos to plot points.
This might inspire me to pick up Gill Paul’s book on Wallis Simpson, someone I’m infinitely fascinated by.