Today I am reviewing Dear Mrs. Kennedy, The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963 as part of TLC Book Tours. As always, I am provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
About the book:
In the weeks and months following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy received over one million letters. They came from political luminaries such as Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Charles DeGaulle; from Hollywood stars like Lauren Bacall, Vivian Leigh, and Gene Kelly and foreign dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Monaco. Distinguished artists, writers, and well-known society figures – Ezra Pound, Noel Coward, Babe Paley, Langston Hughes, Oleg Cassini, Josephine Baker – offered heartfelt condolences. “Ordinary” citizens of this country and many others wrote as well, as did children, often with the most heartbreaking sincerity.
Dear Mrs. Kennedy: More Than Just a Compendium of Letters
Dear Mrs. Kennedy uses these many voices to tell the unforgettable story of those fateful four days when the world was struck with shock and sadness, presenting a poignant time capsule and a diverse portrait not only of the aftermath of the assassination, but of the Kennedy mystique that continues to captivate the world.
During a decade of writing and publishing books about the Kennedy family, Jay Mulvaney became acquainted with the collection of condolence mail held in the JFK Library in Boston. In 2007 he had the idea to bring together a selection of the very best of these letters into a book that would illuminate both Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy. In a cruel twist of fate, Jay himself died unexpectedly shortly after signing up the book and completing an initial selection of several thousand letters. Experienced writer and book editor Paul De Angelis then took over the task of bringing Jay’s project to fruition.
I am a member of the generation that remembers exactly where they were when President Kennedy was shot. I will never forget hearing the devastating news from my teacher and then watching the television endlessly for the next several days. It is forever imprinted on my brain. I was just a child but even then I had a sense that our collective innocence was gone forever. The world changed that day. I don’t know if we’ve ever recovered. So it was with great interest that I read this book. Let me just say it: I cannot recommend it highly enough. One of the blurbs on the back says that it is a great book for the bedside table. It’s true. You can read a bit at a time. What the authors do very well is provide the reader with the context of the time, the mood of the nation and what had been happening politically and globally before the assassination. For those less than familiar with the Kennedy family history, that is provided as well.
We read letters from family members, close friends, heads of state, children and adults alike. One letter is from an Eskimo family on a remote island off the coast of Alaska. We read letters from Winston Churchill, a nun who was watching as Kennedy’s car traveled through the streets of Dallas, fellow crew members on PT 109: people from every walk of life wrote to Mrs. Kennedy. Sometimes a letter consists only of a simple sentence or two. We all remember the dignity with which Jacqueline Kennedy carried herself throughout the days after the assassination. I cannot even begin to imagine how these notes from all over the world must have moved her in the weeks and months to follow. I know that I was tremendously moved as I read each letter. I really had a sense of a world citizenry plunged into terrible grief. I found myself contemplating, as I have done so many times in the past, what might have been had President Kennedy lived.
This book is a treasure. I will read it again and again.
About the author:
Paul De Angelis served more than three decades in the book publishing business as Editor, Editorial Director, or Editor-in-Chief of such publishing companies as St. Martin’s Press and E.P. Dutton and Kodansha America. After becoming an independent editor in 1996 he founded Paul De Angelis Book Development, which assists authors, agents, publishers and organizations in turning ideas & manuscripts into books. Since 1997 Paul has edited, contributed to, and co-published the quarterly guide to the Rhinebeck-Red Hook-Hudson area of the mid-Hudson Valley, AboutTown. In the past few years his main writing and research interest has been American culture and politics in its intersection with the wider world.
The publishers are graciously giving away a copy of this book to one lucky commenter on this post. So, if you are interested, leave a comment and I will pick a winner on Wednesday evening.