Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Book Review: Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah

Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: August 27, 2022
Publisher: Mariner
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "From the bestselling author of The Lost Vintage, a rare and dazzling portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier's college year abroad in postwar Paris, an intimate and electrifying story of love and betrayal, and the coming-of-age of an American icon - before the world knew her as Jackie. In August 1949 Jacqueline Bouvier arrives in postwar Paris to begin her junior year abroad. She’s twenty years old, socially poised but financially precarious, and all too aware of her mother’s expectations that she make a brilliant match. Before relenting to family pressure, she has one year to herself far away from sleepy Vassar College and the rigid social circles of New York, a year to explore and absorb the luminous beauty of the City of Light. Jacqueline is immediately catapulted into an intoxicating new world of champagne and châteaux, art and avant-garde theater, cafés and jazz clubs. She strikes up a romance with a talented young writer who shares her love of literature and passion for culture – even though her mother would think him most unsuitable. But beneath the glitter and rush, France is a fragile place still haunted by the Occupation. Jacqueline lives in a rambling apartment with a widowed countess and her daughters, all of whom suffered as part of the French Resistance just a few years before. In the aftermath of World War II, Paris has become a nest of spies, and suspicion, deception, and betrayal lurk around every corner. Jacqueline is stunned to watch the rise of communism – anathema in America, but an active movement in France – never guessing she is witnessing the beginning of the political environment that will shape the rest of her life—and that of her future husband. Evocative, sensitive, and rich in historic detail, Jacqueline in Paris portrays the origin story of an American icon. Ann Mah brilliantly imagines the intellectual and aesthetic awakening of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, and illuminates how France would prove to be her one true love, and one of the greatest influences on her life."


It's the Fall of 1949 and we find Jacqueline Bouvier on board an ocean liner making its way to Europe. She is studying abroad for the year in France along with some other students from Smith. Her hovering mother has secured her an acceptable host family, but Jackie hopes to branch out on her own without her mother constantly peering over her shoulder picking at everything. Her mother wants her to stay in New York, but she knows she wants more for her life. While in Paris, she learns there's a lot more! There's art, their culture, their champagne, jazz clubs, young writers, politics, and more. All of these experiences influenced her life tremendously. She even meets someone, a young man named John "Jack" Marquand, who her mother would most definitely not approve of as he is a writer. Jacqueline also finds out her host mother has more to her backstory than just a regular Parisian and her host family are hiding more secrets than she knows.... even her new boyfriend, too. Jackie is quick to learn that post-war Paris is a complex place and time. All of these coming-of-age experiences shaped Jackie's life and provide so much insight into what made her the Jackie America loves and appreciates. Ann Mah's Jacqueline in Paris is a moving historical novel that at times reads like a well-researched biography; however, it is never overpowering and is an absolute delight.

It comes as no surprise that I am a huge fan of Jackie, so I knew I had to read Ann Mah's Jacqueline in Paris. Jackie was depicted wonderfully in this novel and I enjoyed her experiences in post-war Paris.  Between adapting to French life, the language, the culture, the cold winters, and even the bathrooms, it was all very eye-opening in that I could see how these experiences in Paris influenced Jackie for the rest of her life. Her slowly blossoming relationship with her host mother was wonderfully done as her host mother's story is so important. The novel also takes us through her first real relationship and even aspects of that took me by surprise as like many other characters in the novel, Jack Marquand is so much more than meets the eye. Hanging out with Jack and many of the other people in Paris got Jackie out of her comfort zone and made her question things like politics and her views on history. This, in turn, helped Jackie grow and prepared her to become First Lady.

I adored Mah's portrayal of post-war Paris. She brought it to life beautifully. I felt like I was there! The art, the days walking by the Seine, the classes, the cold winters, the cocktails, food, nightlife, the dinners....it was all a delight! Mah is a well-known author of French food books as well as a travel writer and that is very evident in Jacqueline in Paris. I don't think I have read a novel that captures a city as well as Mah captured Paris. On the other hand, Mah also depicts post-war Paris has being a complex place at times. It wasn't all stardust and champagne. There were some difficult moments as well as Paris desperately trying to get out from under the dark shadow of WWII, which definitely took its toll.

If you appreciate a good historical novel, you love Jackie and the Kennedy clan, I urge you to pick up Jacqueline in Paris this fall. It was such a charming read and a sleepy novel in the best way possible. I knew I could pick it up before bed, it wouldn't upset me, but instead leave me with beautiful thoughts of Paris and a time long forgotten. So, are you a fan of Ann Mah? Have you read Jacqueline in Paris? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. I've rarely seen books that focus on Jackie's pre-JFK life, so this is very interesting!

    1. Yes! I haven't read too much about her time before JFK, especially abroad, so this was all new to me. It did not disappoint and I really loved the setting of Paris. Thanks for visiting, Angela. I hope you get to read it soon!


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