This is one of the first books I read this year as part of my participation in the WV Reads 150 program. I don’t know why I didn’t read it sooner. As with many people, I find the Kennedys, especially the Camelot years, mesmerizing. But, to me, this is a love story, plain and simple. Secret Service Agent Clint Hill’s love for Jackie Kennedy comes across in every page he penned. They shared a special closeness–at first out of shear proximity since he was her private agent, and then out of trust and friendship–that I doubt they shared with anyone else in their lives at the time.
Before Pres. Kennedy took his oath of office until a year after his death, Hill was with Jackie eight or more hours a day. He was with her during both the good and bad times–from White House star-studded events to private times with the children, from trips around the world to her preferred solitude in Middleburg, Va., from her miscarriages and death of her newborn son to leaping to her rescue on the car that fateful day in Dallas.
What makes this book so special is how personal and detailed it is. Hill was in the know–he was on the scene every day of Jackie’s life for four years. Most of it was a time of privilege, glamour and globetrotting. And not just for Hill. Most of the Kennedy detail were in their 20s and 30s. And most paid the price with failed marriages and a disconnect with their children. I can’t imagine being that young and thrown into that lifestyle.
It was Hill, though, who was spending an extraordinary amount of time with the most sought-after woman in the world. Intelligent, educated, beautiful, stylish–Jackie had it all. But, this book is a portrait of the woman behind the image. A fiesty woman who loved to dance in Italian nightclubs, smoke cigarettes, ride in fast cars with foreign princes, jet ski and ride horses. One who cherished her private time with family and friends and who tried to inspire her secret service agents to appreciate art, poetry and opera. It’s an up close and very personal, behind-the-scenes account of Jackie during the White House years seen through the lens of someone who deeply loved her.