Jackie Oh! | Biographical Fiction

Jackie x 3! Consider these novels about Jackie Collins, Jacqueline Susann, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

Paul, Gill. Scandalous Women: A Novel of Jackie Collins and Jacqueline Susann. Morrow. Aug. 2024. 384p. ISBN 9780063245150. pap. $18.99. F

Paul has created an engaging, innovative, and quicksilver-paced novel about the friendship between two titans of blockbuster fiction, Jacqueline Susann (1918–74) and Jackie Collins (1937–2015), although there is no record of them ever meeting in real life. Fans of both authors will find much to enjoy in this overall historically accurate portrait of two women who wrote sexy, compulsively readable novels and were castigated by critics while appealing to millions of people who didn’t previously buy or read books. Paul (who previously fictionalized Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden in A Beautiful Rival) cleverly uses Valley of the Dolls’ format of alternating chapters focusing on the three main characters: Jacqueline, Jackie, and Nancy, an ambitious publishing novice who champions and befriends the two authors. Through Nancy, readers meet numerous people who would later inspire characters in Susann and Collins’s novels. There is plenty of real-life drama for Paul to empathetically explore, including Susann’s cancer battles and financial concern for her son, whose autism she hid, and Collins’s troubled first marriage to a man who was biploar and later died by suicide. VERDICT A juicy and fun novel about the women who pioneered the sexy page-turner with Valley of the Dolls and Hollywood Wives.—Kevin Howell

Tripp, Dawn. Jackie. Random. Jun. 2024. 496p. ISBN 9780812997217. $30. F

Tripp’s latest (after Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe) explores the inner life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The novel grabs attention from the start, with the horrific scene of Jack Kennedy’s assassination, leading Jackie into memories of the past. Jack and Jackie met in 1951 and embarked on their brief life together. As Jackie experiences the love, joy, sorrow, and sacrifice of her time with Jack and beyond, history is being made. After Jack’s death, the world moves on, but Jackie’s feelings of grief and loss never leave her, coloring the rest of her life. The historic political violence that took Jack’s life continues and deeply affects Jackie, especially the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Tripp’s conception of Jackie’s interior life—the life of a woman who was not just part of the Kennedy mythos but also cultured, charming, and creative—is incredibly detailed, moving, and poignant. VERDICT This meticulously researched and lyrically written portrait of Jackie will appeal not only to baby boomers who experienced the historic events of her life but also to anyone who appreciates intimate novels that look into women’s hearts, minds, and souls. A must-purchase.—Barbara Clark-Greene

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