Louis Bayard is in conversation with Christina Clancy, In-Person at Boswell on Monday, June 27, 6:30 pm. Click here to register and find more info.
The mythology of the Kennedys is baked into the brains of many an American. So it’s fascinating to me when a writer like Louis Bayard switches it up. His take on a single Jacqueline Bouvier being courted by the well-connect Congressman is told through a fictionalized version of Kirk LeMoyne Billings. Lem was a prep school friend of Jack’s and known as a walker to Kennedy women. Jack assigned Lem to occupy Jackie while he ran for the Senate and who knows what else? Could he stay true to both parties, especially when they were not exactly on the same page regarding what exactly this relationship was? Jackie and Me is at once wryly entertaining and wistfully somber. Prime historical fiction!— Daniel Goldin
Bestselling author Louis Bayard is back with a brilliantly wrought, witty, and sensitive novel about the young Jacqueline Bouvier before she became that Jackie—and about a marriage that almost never happened.
In the spring of 1951, debutante Jacqueline Bouvier, working as the Inquiring Photographer for the Washington Times-Herald, meets Jack Kennedy, a charming Congressman from a notorious and powerful family, at a party in Washington, DC. Young, rebellious, eager to break free from her mother, Jackie is drawn to the elusive young politician, and soon she and Jack are bantering over secret dinner dates and short work phone calls. Jack, busy with House duties during the week and Senate campaigning on the weekend (as well as his other now-well-known extracurricular activities) convinces his best friend and fixer, Lem Billings, to court Jackie on his behalf. Only gradually does Jackie begin to realize that she is being groomed to be the perfect political wife, whether Jack is interested in settling down or not.
Taking place mostly during the spring and summer before Jack and Jackie’s wedding, and narrated by an older Lem as he looks back at his own relationship with the Kennedys and his role in this complicated marriage, Jackie & Me is a searching story about a young woman of a certain class with narrow options, two people who loved each other, and two people who realized too late that they devoted their lives to Jack at their own expense.
Sharply written, steeped in the era and with witty appearances by members of the extended Kennedy clan, this is Jackie as never before seen, in a story about love, sacrifice, friendship, and betrayal.
About the Author
Louis Bayard is a New York Times Notable Book author and has been shortlisted for both the Edgar and Dagger awards for his historical thrillers, which include The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy. His most recent novel was the critically acclaimed Courting Mr. Lincoln. He lives in Washington, DC, and teaches at George Washington University. Visit him online at www.louisbayard.com.
Praise for Jackie & Me:
“Narrator Lem is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby’s Nick Carraway . . . Jackie, she’s pure delight . . . Romance with bite: the perfect escapism for today’s anxious times.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Bayard is a master of historical fiction; this exquisite book is no exception.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“[Bayard] brings a poignant empathy, persuasive intimacy, and nuanced imagination to his interpretation of a relatively unexamined chapter in Kennedy lore.”
—Booklist, starred review
"I absolutely adore this novel! It’s a testament to Louis Bayard’s remarkable gifts as storyteller how suspenseful it is, given that we already know this story . . . or do we? Full of Bayard’s trademark charm and wit, with prose that sings and a perfect voice, Jackie & Me delighted me from beginning to end."
—Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek
“We all dream of novels as good as this one: Fascinating, funny, gorgeous, heartbreaking. In my next life I want to be Louis Bayard.”
—Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank With Me and Better Luck Next Time
"A loving and romantic look at an unlikely friendship told with a playful command of language that feels as effortless as it is exciting. Bayard possesses a singular wit and deftly uses it to give fresh insight into even his best-known characters. I never wanted it to end."
—Steven Rowley, author of The Editor and The Guncle
"All of Louis Bayard’s incredible gifts as a teller of stories we think we already know are on brilliant display here: a captivating setting, unforgettable characters, and an entirely surprising take on a familiar tale. Jackie & Me is riveting, funny, charming, and haunting. He makes it look so easy! I will happily follow Bayard wherever he leads."
—Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest and Good Company
“A startling rendering of Jackie Kennedy’s life written with panache and daring.”
—Laurence Leamer, bestselling author of The Kennedy Women and Capote's Women
“It's hard to combine wit and tender-heartedness in a single book, but Louis Bayard has produced a lovely amalgam in Jackie & Me. This latest subtly crafted addition to his oeuvre boasts a top-notch structure and the best-ever depiction of 'Papa Joe' Kennedy, as well as a portrait of Janet Auchincloss, Jackie’s mother, that is poisonous perfection.”
—Thomas Mallon, author of Henry and Clara and Watergate
Praise for Courting Mr. Lincoln:
“An exquisite historical reimagining of a love acknowledged—and a longing denied.”
“Bayard has written eight other novels, and he’s extraordinarily gifted at blending provocative fiction with history. The details of [Mary Todd and Lincoln’s] courtship are lovely to read, but Lincoln’s time with Speed is much more riveting. At book’s end, who’s courting Lincoln remains an enticing mystery.”
—The Washington Post
“Bayard's masterful command of language enchants and thrills; his meticulous, almost otherworldly, understanding of his historical subject awes and inspires . . . Courting Mr. Lincoln is Bayard at his absolute best. He offers more reasons to love one of the most admired presidents in U.S. history and proves yet again why he himself is one of the nation's greatest literary gems.”
“Thoroughly researched and thrillingly plotted . . . Filled with rich historical detail and compulsively readable, Courting Mr. Lincoln is a story of a best friend, a future wife, and the political legend that they came together to create, each leaving an indelible mark on the man that would one day become president. Fans of historical fiction will be up late into the night to uncover the next chapter of this fascinating time in history.”
—New York Journal of Books
Praise for Louis Bayard’s Previous Work:
“A tour de force.”
“Brilliantly plotted and completely absorbing.”
—Sunday Times (London)
“Shimmering, knock-your-socks-off language.”
“Bayard reinvigorates historical fiction, rendering the past as if he’d witnessed it firsthand.”
—The New York Times