Cover Image: Jackie & Me

Jackie & Me

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is a historical fiction that imagines the relationship of Jackie and Jack Kennedy so told through the eyes of one of Jacks Kennedy best friend Lem Billings.
He’s tell of their friendship, love, sacrifice, and betrayal, as well as the personal and political challenges faced by the Kennedys and their circle.
If you are interested in a story that blends history and romance with a touch of humor and intrigue, read Jackie and Me by Louis Bayard. 😊

Was this review helpful?

Engaging, entertaining novel about Jackie and her early relationship with John F Kennedy. The storyline felt very realistic and it I had to remind myself that this was a novel about two actual people. Very well done! Will be getting a hardcopy.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to Algonquin Books and to NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

I love reading Historical Fiction, and I have read other Historical novels as well as a lot of Nonfiction about the Kennedy family, so I was interested in checking out this book.

This book is about Lem Billings best friend of JFK and his relationship and friendship with Jackie Bouvier. It was really well written and interesting.

I however did have a few things I didn't like about it. I thought it ended rather abruptly. I wish it would have gone on a bit longer than it did. Secondly, I ended up getting the audiobook to finish it, and I really enjoyed the narrators impression of JFK, but I hated how he did the voice of Jackie's mother. It was really squeaky and obnoxious and a few times I found myself skipping past that part.

Overall I did enjoy this book, I just wish that It would have ended a little differently.

Was this review helpful?

Quick and Dirty⁣
-reads like a memoir at times⁣
-Jack and Jackie's origin story⁣
-inside look behind the glitz and glamour⁣
-ideal for Jackie O lovers⁣

I have a thing for Jackie, so I've been eager to read this one since it first came out. And having just read 𝘑𝘢𝘤𝘲𝘶𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘗𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘴 a few months ago I thought this would be an ideal time to read 𝘑𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘪𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘔𝘦. So, I jumped at the chance when Algonquin approached me about participating in the book tour. Having read this one now I can definitely say that it's an ideal read for anyone interested in the Kennedys and how Jack and Jackie came to be. She was much more than a debutante, but you seldom hear much about that in the history books. This book sheds light on her ambition to work in publishing and fashion, adding to her mystique and laying the foundation for the icon she was to become. To hear how she fell for Jack despite his ways was hard at times, especially toward the end of the book as their nuptials loomed large. But, in the end, it reminds the reader that humans, even famous ones, are flawed creatures. I will say that switching between the audio and physical made this a quick read; I really enjoyed the narrator's Jack impression, so that added some color to the experience that I wasn't expecting. Overall, this is a good book for anyone wanting to know more about the early relationship between one of the most famous couples in American history, fictionalized or not!

Was this review helpful?

I really struggled with this one. I’m not sure if it was the writing style or the pacing. I’m choosing to DNF at 25%. I don’t choose to stop reading ARCs lightly but I could not see myself forcing to finish a book only to write a negative review. I will not be posting this anywhere else. The star rating below is simply because Netgalley forces you to choose one. I appreciate Algonquin Books gifting me this copy, I will pass it on for someone else to hopefully enjoy.

Was this review helpful?

Imagine being the wingman of JFK, the womanizer who would marry Jacqueline Bouvier and become the 35th President of the United States only to be assassinated 2 years into office. Such is the life of Lem Billings, a closeted gay man who happened to be John F. Kennedy’s best friend and closest confidante. But in Louis Bayard’s Jackie & Me, we also learn that Lem had a close relationship with Jackie, serving as the go-between for JFK and Jackie as they courted and eventually married.

Told through the eyes of an older Lem Billings some 30 years after the events, we learn about Jackie and JFK’s early days, and how their relationship might have been quite possibly arranged to give JFK greater political power. After all, what’s a future President without a wife, especially one as enchanting as Jackie?

Jackie & Me is narrated in an old-fashioned, distant kind of way. You can almost envision this novel playing out as a movie with Lem narrating the story off-screen. To be honest, I had a difficult time connecting with the story in the first half because the writing style was so vague and unusual, but I became quite hooked once the tale traveled into more familiar territory and I could fill in the gaps with the history with which I am already well-acquainted. It is quite an engaging, banter-filled novel; albeit one that is difficult to follow at times.

Was this review helpful?

"Jackie & Me" follows a young Jackie O in the blossom of her relationship with JFK and his best friend Lem. The story was a wee bit slow but it was nice to have a peak at the young Jackie. I enjoyed the glamour and the heavy decisions that encapsulated this story.

Was this review helpful?

I'm sad to give this book one star because I think that Louis Bayard is an underrated author who deserves to be better known. But this book just didn't do it for me.

The plot of the book (such as it is) follows a bit on from Courting Mr. Lincoln. The (EXTREMELY closeted) gay friend of JFK is used as a sort of friendly Cyrano or Miles Standish stand-in with Jackie Bouvier instead of the jealous boyfriend of Lincoln.

The thing is, nothing much happens. Lem (the friend of JFK) and Jackie get along great! They kill time together, waiting on JFK. Jackie knows that she is trying out for the role of wife (JFK thinks his odds of getting elected are better if he marries) but there is almost no interaction in the book between the two of them. And the little interaction they have...

Why does Jackie want this? That's the question that is never answered satisfactorily. Lem blames himself for not warning Jackie about JFK's womanizing ways, but she already is aware. Why would the woman portrayed in this book, who is wickedly smart, cultured, interested in the world and who seems to have some self-respect, be interested in being the showpiece of a guy who barely gives her the time of day and whose idea of a proposal is to say, "Well, what about it?" Who doesn't even bother to court her himself but who pairs her up with a guy that he knows is no threat to any possible marital designs he may have in order to keep her on the shelf? There's a hint that Jackie is a caring sort who wants a project, someone who needs her, but does Jack ever think he needs her in particular? The answer this book gives is no. JFK needs a wife and Jackie is decorative and is apparently willing to put up with his bullshit, but there's nothing special about her from JFK's point of view. Tragic.

Lem is hopelessly devoted to JFK. Is he in love with him? It's hard to say because Lem is an expert at avoiding looking at things that he doesn't think should see the light of day. Maybe? Certainly he is aware that he is manipulating this woman who he also loves for JFK's possible gain but he doesn't let that stop him. Disappointing.

A lot of this book is oblique. There are far more scenes that are hinted at sideways than that are actually laid out. Lem is a slippery fellow who won't let the reader put a finger on him and that makes it hard to care about any of this. Jackie herself is obscured by all of this clever lightness of explanation and dialogue and Lem may be trying so hard to hide his feelings for Jack that JFK looks like nothing but a monstrous narcissist. Talk about feet of clay. By the end of the book I was actively wishing that Jackie would run for the hills, but of course we know what really happened. And Lem? He's a tragedy all his own. This book circles but never lands.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you so much to Algonquin Press and Netgalley for sending me an ARC of this book. I was instantly struck by the description because this is a figure that everyone knows (or thinks they know) so well. I think it is a fantastic creative effort for any author to capture the life of a well-known person in a fictional way. Telling the story of someone’s life through the eyes of a friend on the outside is both engaging to the reader and allows for readers to see the figure in a different light.

Bayard has done a fantastic job at taking Jackie Kennedy’s life and making everyone question what could have been if different choices were made. I found myself falling in love with her character pre-marriage through the lens of Lem Billings. I also like how this takes place in the crux of courtship – before marriage but after meeting. It is clever to set the book at this time period in Jackie’s life because this is the time where all the big decisions need to be made.

Apart from content, I love the way Bayard writes. It is clever, highly crafted, and pays so much respect to the characters.

Was this review helpful?

Who doesn't love Jackie Kennedy?! All the style, glamour and mystery of one of the most important and popular First Wives.
Jackie was and is an icon we love to know more about, so this book satisfies that eternal desire.
Louis Bayard brings to light both the casual and formal, Jackie Kennedy.
What fun to have known her and share your memories with all of us.

Put yourself in Louis' shoes and imagine knowing Jackie as a friend.


Was this review helpful?

A thank you to Netgalley for sharing the ARC in exchange for honest review.

I think that if you're a fan of the mystique surrounding the infamous Jackie O., one of our most famous first ladies (an disappointingly antiquated term) than you'll most likely enjoy this. I can't say I'm much interested in either the former or the latter, but it would make a nice gift book for my mom
- and my primary reason for reading. I also listened and didn't care for it, which admittedly may have marred my perception.

Was this review helpful?

The eventful life of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis has inspired many fictional retellings; Bayard has made the curious choice to imagine the courtship of Jack and Jackie through the eyes of Jack’s close friend, Lem Billings. This friendship was real and carefully detailed in the biography Jack and Lem (which Bayard credits), but the reader becomes mystified as to whose thoughts we’re really observing. When we get to experience Jackie’s inner doubts and desires (as well as a couple of graphic sex scenes with Jack), are we meant to believe this is the jaded debutante thinking, or her devoted gay friend’s imagining of her thoughts? The whole experience is disorienting and ultimately a little creepy, especially when you consider that Jackie has numerous living relatives who will hardly enjoy Bayard’s voyeurism.

That said, there is much that’s fascinating in Bayard’s depiction of a woman of brilliance and privilege facing an adult world in which her talents are expected to be submerged into support of a philandering political genius. Jackie and Lem’s banter is crisp and witty, reflecting a sharply satirical take on the rigid conformity of 1950s American upper-middle-class culture. Bayard has also chosen to have an aging Lem in the 1980s narrate his memories of thirty years previous, and the fog of his nostalgia also keeps us from feeling we really understand the subject of the novel as she really might have been. Jackie is still waiting for the novelist who can bring her genius to life.

Was this review helpful?

Jackie & Me was an intriguing novel. Louis Bayard's writing style had me reading way past my bedtime. The novel begins with Jackie as a young talented writer for the Washington Times-Herald. She had a column that would have her scour the streets for photographs and information from random people walking down the street. This story is told by Lem Billings, one of John F. Kennedy's closest friends. Lem attended school with JFK and was a staple at the Kennedy family gatherings so much that he was "adopted" by the family. Lem is in his late 50s and is reminiscing about the events that took place during Jackie and JFK's courtship. I recently read Emily Griffin'd, "Meant to Be" a fictional story loosely based on JFK, Jr and his wife Carolyn. So, Jackie & Me was an excellent read alongside.
Jackie & JFK's love story was anything but traditional. Jackie had so many aspirations and talents to only change her path from journalist to the devoted wife of a womanizing politician that we know. Her family background and grit not only carved her into the woman she was but also into the icon we know. Lem had the opportunity to tell Jackie to not marry JFK but decided to tell her JFK would change. So, many what-ifs and why-not.
I highly recommend this artistically crafted novel of love, friendship, heartache, and lies.
Thank you Algonquin Books, Louis Bayard, and NetGalley for the ARC.

Was this review helpful?

I thought this was just okay to be honest. I could see people who are fascinated with JFK and Jackie O. being really into it. I think the writing wasn't amazing for me, but I would still recommend it to others. It was an interesting perspective of someone so close to the Kennedy family.

Thank you so much to @ Netgalley for this advanced reader's copy for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

A wonderful take on Jackie before she was Kennedy. My full review can be found on Historical Novel Society

Was this review helpful?

A humanizing historical fiction account of Jackie Bouvier, before Kennedy, told through the lens of Lem Billings, childhood friend to JFK.

Was this review helpful?

This is an interesting take on Jackie Kennedy and Lem Billings relationship. I have been fascinated with Kennedy history since I was little so I immediately jumped at the chance to read this historical fiction.
This is a fresh take on Jackie before she was Jackie Kennedy seen through the eyes of her husband’s best friend.
Thank you @algonquinbooks for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

It’s that first glance. That instant of electric attraction. Jack Kennedy, a congressman from Massachusetts, sees Jackie Bouvier, a sleek, soft-spoken brunette who is very unlike the women he typically pursues. In the back of her mind, Jackie heeds the advice of her mother, which she rarely does, but in this case it seems to work and she captivates the congressman. But what follows is not a typical boy meets girl situation. Rather, Jack calls upon his friend, Lem Billings, to be his go-between, to keep Jackie on the hook while Jack goes about his business. And, it’s this extraordinary friendship between Jackie and Lem that is the substance of Jackie & Me.

Like so many relationships in which attraction is the main feature, it becomes obvious that Jackie has more in common with Lem than she does with Jack. They go to galleries and fashion shows and discuss ideas. They almost have the perfect relationship except that Jackie is beyond attracted to Lem’s best friend and Jackie probably isn’t Lem’s type anyway. Or is she?

Louis Bayard tells the story with humor and ease and sometimes with a sad touch that shows Lem in his later years somewhat forgotten by the people he was close friends with and sometimes held in contempt by them as well. It’s also a fragile position to be between two people who are in a relationship, especially when you care about them both and know that one will ultimately betray the other.

Despite the fact that I’ve heard the Kennedy name for my entire lifetime, I really have never delved into their world but found myself doing so as I read. It’s a complicated world with a little megalomania thrown in and a lot of misogyny and while it’s a product of its time that doesn’t really make it any better. I ultimately came away feeling bad for Jackie who while intelligent and sharp and could almost be imagined capable of swimming with sharks was still young and deserving of a better relationship than the one she received. Bayard does a magnificent job of portraying this side of Jackie, her sense of humor and drive and often her huge vulnerability that she manages to keep almost hidden.

Lem is also an interesting character. He seems to bring out the better side of Jack, but it’s not permanent and shows that Jack’s sense of loyalty may be to himself alone. On the other hand, Lem’s loyalties have him questioning his own sense of right and who ultimately he should be loyal to.

Jackie & Me is a captivating imagining of a budding relationship between two charismatic individuals as well as a beautiful one developing between two friends that never hesitates to show how the shiniest object can tarnish with time. An excellent read.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

This is the story of Jackie Bouvier and Jack Kennedy's courtship as related through the eyes of Jack's best friend, Lem. Jack and Lem went to boarding school together and formed a lifelong friendship; Lem being more or less adopted by the entire Kennedy clan. Jackie was working as an on the street photographer and columnist. Jack was known for his war record and as an up and coming politician.

Jackie and Jack met at the start of his Senate campaign. Knowing that his time would be totally consumed by that, Jack asks Lem to be Jackie's friend so that she didn't drift away and meet someone else. Lem was glad to do that as he and Jackie had hit it off immediately. They went to museums, discussed books, and Lem interpreted Jack and his mixed signals to Jackie. Jack even had Lem explain how a marriage to him would be; he expected to retain his ability to see other women as he wanted. Jack was basically marrying because his father thought it was necessary to do so in order to be electable. Jackie was marrying for love and because it was the next thing in life a woman did. It was a tragedy waiting to happen.

This is such a charming book. Readers will fall in love with Lem and find it totally believable that he won the heart of both Jackie and all the Kennedy clan. Lem is loyal and delightful, always willing to step in and do what is needed. Jackie is shown as such an interesting woman, full of plans for her future but caught in a love that didn't show much sign of being one that would nurture her. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and anyone who needs a book to warm their heart.

Was this review helpful?

JACKIE & ME by Louis Bayard was a bit of a disappointment. I hoped to read about the glamourous Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and this novel focused on an earlier, less assured period involving her courtship with JFK (hard to believe that would have been about 70 years ago). Baynard includes a great deal of reflection and introspection, utilizing Lem Billings, JFK's friend, to narrate many of the happenings. For me, this story would likely have been more intriguing if the characters were truly fictional. That may have made it easier to include more action and to interweave more about the social and cultural expectations at that time, although it was clear that Bouvier, Auchincloss, and Kennedy parents played a huge (often manipulative) role in their children's lives. JACKIE & ME received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus and Library Journal. For more on this text, see The Washington Post review here:

Was this review helpful?