Friday, August 12, 2022

Book Review: Jackie and Me by Louis Bayard

Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 14, 2022
Publisher: Algonquin
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Goodreads says, "Master storyteller Louis Bayard delivers a surprising portrait of a young Jackie Kennedy as we've never seen her before. In 1951, former debutante Jacqueline Bouvier is hard at work as the Inquiring Camera Girl for a Washington newspaper. Her mission in life is “not to be a housewife,” but when she meets the charismatic congressman Jack Kennedy at a Georgetown party, her resolution begins to falter. Soon the two are flirting over secret phone calls, cocktails, and dinner dates, and as Jackie is drawn deeper into the Kennedy orbit, and as Jack himself grows increasingly elusive and absent, she begins to question what life at his side would mean. For answers, she turns to his best friend and confidant, Lem Billings, a closeted gay man who has made the Kennedy family his own, and who has been instructed by them to seal the deal with Jack’s new girl. But as he gets to know her, a deep and touching friendship emerges, leaving him with painfully divided alliances and a troubling dilemma: Is this the marriage she deserves? Narrated by an older Lem as he looks back at his own role in a complicated alliance, this is a courtship story full of longing and of suspense, of what-ifs and possible wrong turns. It is a surprising look at Jackie before she was that Jackie. And in best-selling author Louis Bayard’s witty and deeply empathetic telling, Jackie & Me is a page-turning story of friendship, love, sacrifice, and betrayal— and a fresh take on two iconic American figures."



Everyone knows former president Jack Kennedy and his beautiful wife, Jackie Kennedy, but do they know Lem Billings, a close friend of Jack's? Lem is Jack's lifelong best friend and because of this, he is a part of Kennedy family dinners, holidays, and insider secrets.  The story starts with Jack and Jackie right before they start dating. Jack, a playboy, has no real desire to get married, but we know his family is putting the pressure on him, especially if he has political aspirations. Jackie is the perfect political wife; she is poised, glamorous, educated, and can speak various languages. But does she know what she is in for? That's where Lem comes in. He is to befriend Jackie, clue her in as to what's ahead, and help Jack navigate their courtship.  Jackie and Me by Louis Bayard is a delightful re-imagining of Jack and Jackie's relationship as told through Lem's eyes.  The Kennedys have been done ad nauseam, but this is a fresh perspective.

I have always been mesmerized by Jackie and I think Bayard really captured her essence.  While she is still young and figuring out what she wants, I enjoyed her spunk, her resilience, and her friendship with Lem.  I also enjoyed learning more about her job working at the Washington Times. We all know what's up ahead for Jackie, but watching it unfold through Lem's eyes definitely offered a different perspective.

Lem also brings us behind the scenes at Kennedy family social functions. Bayard brought to life Jack Kennedy's larger-than-life father, his religious mother, and other important family members. I loved watching them come to life in Jackie and Me and enjoyed Jackie's interactions with them, even if certain people made her squirm. I'm looking at you, Ethel. Lem is also a complex character in that he is gay man, which was difficult given the time period. Can he truly come out of the closet if Jack, who will be a public figure, is his best friend? It's very complex and my heart went out to Lem on so many occasions.

Bayard captures the Kennedy family as well as Jack and Jackie's initial courtship very well. The book almost asks what if Jack didn't marry Jackie? What would that look like? Did Lem prepare Jackie for what it means to be a part of the Kennedy family? Being a hardcore Kennedy fan, I enjoyed all this drama and Kennedy lore. Jackie and Me is a wonderful historical read to curl up with this summer.  So, have you read Jackie and Me? Is it on your TBR list? Are you a Kennedy family fan? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. I've read quite a few historical fiction books about the Kennedys, so it's nice that this one gives a fresh take from a new POV!


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