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Grace and Power

The Private World of the Kennedy White House

Book Reviews


What do people think about Grace and Power?? Reviews will be posted here as they become available. You can also read Advance Praise for the book, meet Sally along the Book Tour and follow her and the book in the News.

The Spectator (London)
July 17, 2004
Sarah Bradford, author of "America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis," writes that Smith "an accomplished, supremely well-connected Beltway biographer...has conscientiously interviewed every Camelot survivor and combed the archives for their memoirs and oral histories to convey the atmosphere of the court....Bedell Smith goes just deeply enough into the political crises of those years, from the disaster of the Bay of Pigs through the triumph of the Cuban missile crisis and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty...There is unlikely to be a better account of the Kennedy court than this...Bedell Smith has chosen to burnish the image; she writes extremely well and has produced the best book on the subject for years. Too much mud has been thrown at the Kennedy White House and it is time the balance was adjusted."

San Antonio Express-News
July 4, 2004
Jan Jarboe Russell writes, "With remarkable detail and dogged reporting, Smith shows us how thoroughly Jackie Kennedy poured herself into Jack Kennedy's life...We learn how Jackie skillfully used her style and manners not just to redecorate the White House and charm the people of France, but to make Jack Kennedy, who was president for only three years, nothing short of immortal."

Detroit Free Press
July 4, 2004
John Smyntek writes that Grace and Power is "well reported and an irresistible page-turning read."

The Globe and Mail (Canada)
June 19, 2004
Andrew Cohen, associate professor of history and international affairs at Carleton University, writes that "During their less than three years in power, a royal court is what the Kennedys effectively created--in the company they kept, the style they set and the conventions they flouted. The Kennedy Court is the idea at the heart of Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House...This is a sensational portrait of the Kennedys in power--original in concept, exhaustive in research, judicious in approach and lovely in expression. In a field of cheap imitation....Smith has written something lively and original. Mining unpublished letters, diaries and journals, coaxing candour from friends, associates and lovers, some now dead, Smith goes where others have gone, but gets far more... Such is the range of Grace and Power that it makes many of the memoirs, biographies and histories of the last 40 years now seem incomplete or incorrect...Smith is writing a social history of the Kennedys, re-creating the White House of Jack and Jackie Kennedy as Doris Kearns Goodwin recreated the White House of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt a few years ago in her magisterial No Ordinary Time. Smith maintains her focus relentlessly....This is fundamentally about personality, which isn't to say it is frivolous. Grace and Power accepts the theory of `the great man of history,' which JFK--who read, wrote, and made history--embraced, believing that people shape events rather than the other way around....What emerges is a rich portrait of life in Washington on the eve of the sexual revolution, at the dawn of the civil rights movement and at the high noon of the Cold War. Smith describes a complicated marriage of love, guile and infidelity. Yet she suspends moral judgment, and in all things she weighs the evidence carefully...This White House is `a deeply human place,' Smith says, and it is deeply affecting...For all of them, and for the United States, it was a thousand days of crisis and danger and duty and excellence. The moment still fascinates today, across the dim decades, because we have seen nothing like it since. Packaged presidents come today without eloquence, elegance, memory or a sense of history. The reign of the Kennedys had all of that, and grace and power, too. So does this dazzling book."
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The New York Times
June 16, 2004
Douglas Brinkley, professor of history and director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, writes that "Grace and Power" is "the first substantial narrative that captures what daily life was really like in the inner sanctum of the White House during the Kennedy years, with Jack and Jackie appropriately cast as the lead actors in the intriguing drama...[Smith] does bring into focus a marriage that still has the world talking...As a reporter, Ms. Smith is first-rate. She coaxes her subjects to open up...`Grace and Power' is exceedingly well-written and ably researched...Without question, Jackie is the real star of `Grace and Power'...Style was her calling card. She exuded magic, even in a casual glance."

USA Today
June 15, 2004
Deirdre Donahue calls Grace and Power "a nuanced and balanced portrait of the Kennedy couple, drawing on interviews with their intimates...[Smith] portrays Jacqueline Onassis as a deeply patriotic woman who hid her pain and drew strength from cultivating her own interests such as horseback riding and renovating the White House. She adored her children and loved her husband despite his failings. And she used her beauty, knowledge and grace to impress the world as an American first lady. Pretty classy."

The Boston Globe
June 14, 2004
David Mehegan writes in a feature review that Smith's "writer's eye pans back and forth like a weaver's shuttle, developing characters and creating depth and texture...Most show an appealing humanness...Smith takes an evenhanded stance...She does not deplore anyone or anything, not even Kennedy's amours...In the end, Jack Kennedy remains something of an enigma on the personal level: rich in friends but apparently not emotionally intimate with any of them...On the public stage, he is intensely engaged with politics and policy. He is cautious and skeptical, with endless sources of intelligence...a man willing to change his mind and listen to good counsel. Although her part is smaller, Jacqueline Kennedy is the unquestioned star...not only for her grace and style and beauty, but for her loyalty to friends, authentic feelings occasionally revealed, shrewd judgment of people, devotion to a man whose flaws she knows, and for the courage and sense of duty she showed throughout one of the worst ordeals of any woman's life."

Sunday Telegraph (London)
June 6, 2004
Anne Applebaum writes that "in describing the private world of Jack and Jackie, it is still possible to be even-handed....what emerges of their lives is still so mesmerisingly attractive that it is hard not to conclude that at least some of the Camelot myth deserved to stick after all...The Kennedy White House really did possess a spontaneity and genuine good tast that has never been equalled since, and perhaps can't be: what it takes to become president of the United States, nowadays, are qualities that could politely be described as the opposite of spontaneity and good taste. Smith's book is a perfect summer beach book, and an easy, entertaining read--but it also tells a deeper story about the American presidency, and how profoundly it has changed."

The Boston Globe
June 6, 2004
David Mehegan's Recommended Summer Reading: "The background is the thousand days of the Kennedy administration, and the big events are here. But the narrative tension is in the tight circle around Jack and Jackie Kenendy, who clearly love one another--he an insatiable rake in almost constant physical pain, and she rocketing about like a pinball between duty, luxurious living, grief, and quiet desperation. If we did not already know the ending, one might say this book reads like a novel."

The Philadelphia Inquirer
June 2, 2004
Karen Heller writes "The White House that Smith presents is an elite circle of brilliant men and elegant women, universally born of privilege and pedigree, of constant dinner parties, late nights, and, yes, afternoon assignations and frequent swims with nubile, accomodating assistants. Grace and Power documents an epicenter of power that seems to belong to a far earlier time than 40 years ago, a vivacious, often libertine existence that seems as distant as the intimate circle of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's White House years...In this history, Jacqueline Kennedy emerges as a more engaged, substantial and controlling presence, who took charge of her schedule and orbit, disappearing into the Virginia hunt country, insisting on time with her loved ones, keenly aware of her husband's Olympian catalog of extramarital exploits."
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Los Angeles Times
May 29, 2004
Ellen Baskin writes in the feature review: "No stronger to voluminous research into the lives of the rich and powerful, [Smith] begins Grace and Power with an impressive cast of characters she calls "the Kennedy Court."...Her book, which covers only the time from John F. Kennedy's 1960 election until his death in 1963, abounds with details, from the title of the novel JFK read in the transitional months before his inauguration (The Warden by Anthony Trollope) to Jackie's tendency to swallow a lot when she was tense...Nothing stopped the revelry, which often lasted until the week hours--not even the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nevertheless, the book does not give the impression that the leader of the free world was fiddling while embers flickered on the shores of the Potomac....Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis lived until 1994 but to many was, like her slain husband, frozen in times as a 1960s icon. The woman who emerges in Smith's pages is a more complex figure than the whispery-voiced, aloof persona on public view. Rather, she was feisty, strong-willed and adamantly refused to play the conventional first lady role."
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Los Angeles Times
May 23, 2004
Gary Indiana writes in the front page review "A gracefully written tell-all that really does tell a story worth reading...Smith has the salient advantage of writing at a wide temporal distance from the frantic post-assassination myth-making and subsequent deification of JFK, enabling her to parse facts from the key players' convenient memories and to avail herself of 40 years of ever-burgeoning scholarly research. She has several surprises to add to those historic 1,000 days. Her detailed book is hardly prurient, but it does clock--and I do mean clock--JFK's infidelities, which emerge here in a somewhat different light than we've seen them before...Grace and Power is stuffed with resonant names from yesteryear...Smith's portrait of Jackie is irresistible...One falls in love with her all over again..What also comes through are Jackie's mischievous intelligence, her unerring sense of style, her wit, her love of the arts, her empathy for others, her forbearance and stoicism."
Read more at LATimes.com.

San Francisco Chronicle
May 23, 2004
Carolyne Zinko writes in the feature review "What emerges is the complex nature of the relationship between the president and first lady, a marriage strained by his infidelity yet preserved in part by her tolerance of it; the transformation of the White House into a royal court of sorts, with advisers competing for JFK's favor and Jackie holding forth with cultural salons and dinners on a grand scale; and the degree to which the president manipulated his advisers and the press, for good and bad, into gathering or squelching information, depending on whether it would help or hurt him."

Washington Post Book World
May 23, 2004
Page One Review: "Sally Bedell Smith has written the nonfiction beach book of the season...She takes pains to sift evidence...and she is in firm command of the vast Kennedy scholarship...Grace and Power will be a runaway bestsller, deservedly so. The book is impressively well researched and smartly written. It is rich in character sketches, anecdotes and accounts of events."
William E. Leuchtenburg, Professor of History Emeritus
University of North Carolina

San Jose Mercury News
May 22, 2004
Anita Amirrezvani writes in the feature review "acclaimed as an insider look at the Kennedys' 1,000-plus days in office."

Daily Mail
May 21, 2004 (London)
Andrew Rosenheim writes "Riveting history...Grace and Power paints a lively picture of this 'social' White House, but though Bedell Smith captures its glamour, she never falls in love with it, understanding, for example, the brutal caprice that could be involved in the Kennedy couple's decisions about who was in and who was out....Throughout the book, Bedell Smith deftly manages to include the weightier events of those Cold War years without either trivialising them or lessening the fun of her lighter gossip. She has a sharp eye for the incongruous but fascinating detail...and a fund of wonderful, sometimes naughty stories...Bedell Smith handles with unsensationalist candor her discovery of Jackie's dissatisfaction with the physical side of her marriage while also exploring the deep emotional ties which clearly existed between Jackie and her husband."

BookPassage.com
May 17, 2004
This interview was done during the book tour in San Francisco, at the Book Passage bookstore in Marin County. Read the full interview »

Newsweek
May 17, 2004
"Smith has made a career out of turning the lives of bold-faced names into meticulously researched biographies...Smith chronicles Jack and Jackie's highs and lows: heroic diplomacy, prodigious infidelity and a sparkling intellectual and social life unsurpassed by their successors."

Time
May 17, 2004
"Smith's primary focus is on the lopsided, bittersweet love story of Jack and Jackie, but she finds time to document in exhaustive detail Kennedy's many infidelities--yes, she digs up a few new ones--as well as Jackie's exceptional grasp of tactical flirtation....Smith is very good on the West Wing-style internal politics of Kennedy's West Wing."

US News & World Report
May 17, 2004
Interview with Sally Bedell Smith, "Candid About Camelot."
"In researching Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House, biographer Sally Bedell Smith interviewed more than 140 sources and came away with an insider's view of JFK and Jackie."
Read more at USNews.com.

Houston Chronicle
May 16, 2004
"Smith writes neither to make idols nor to break them. She's unblinking but fair-minded in her assessment of the Kennedys and their friends, and she writes lucidly and engagingly. But what really sets this book apart from other Camelotery is the sheer density of revealing description and anecdote...Grace and Power really does make you feel that you've stepped inside the private quarters of the White House, that you're rubbing elbows with Jack and Jackie, wedged between Ben and Tony Bradlee and Doug and Phyllis Dillon and Arthur and Marian Schlesinger at one of those informal dinners where the wine and the wit flowed freely."
Read more at HoustonChronicle.com.

Dallas Morning News
May 11, 2004
"A book that puts journalistic integrity above gossip but includes juicy details...Ms. Smith doesn't skim over the president's public successes and failures--the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, his civil rights efforts. But she focuses on the private impact of those events rather than the events themselves."
Read more of the feature interview at DallasNews.com.

New York Daily News
May 9, 2004
Sherryl Connelly writes "Stylistic grace and authoritative reporting...the ultimate account."
Read More at NYDailyNews.com.

Washingtonian Magazine
May, 2004
In his article, Scenes From a Marriage: Behind closed doors with JFK and Jackie, William O'Sullivan reviews Grace and Power.

"[GRACE AND POWER is] the story of JFK and Jackie's Washington life from his election to his funeral."

"Smith offers new insights into their marriage . . . Knitting together details from interviews as well as little-seen letters, diaries, oral histories, and other sources, Smith creates a behind-the-scenes narrative, from daily life to international events."

Read more and find subscription info at Washingtonian.com.

Liz Smith
April 27, 2004
Syndicated Columnist, Liz Smith says Grace and Power is a "ravishingly readable book."

New York Times
April 21, 2004
William Safire reviews Grace and Power for the New York Times. Read more advance praise.

Sally appreciates hearing from you! Please take a moment to contact her directly to let her know what you think. She is not able to respond to every submission, but she will read them all.

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