Tuesday, September 29, 2020



WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

1. What are you currently reading? Hank and Jim by Scott Eyman. This examines the half century friendship between two film icons: Henry Fonda and James Stewart. They met as struggling actors in New York, shared a house in Hollywood, and were confidantes until Fonda's death in 1982. 
I hadn't intended to read this now, having just finished the disappointing biography I review below. But I'd been on the library waitlist and it finally became available so ... Anyway, I'm really enjoying it. Lately I've been reading quite a lot of women-centric stories and this one is all about two quintessentially American men. It's a nice change of pace: warm, understated and masculine. But these men were not perfect. They both did things in the mid/late-1930s that -- while not surprising, considering they were handsome and experiencing the first blush of fame and wealth -- were not admirable where ladies were concerned.

I'm at the part where they return to Hollywood after WWII (Fonda receiving the Navy's Bronze Star; Stewart the Croix De Guerre with Palm for missions flown during the liberation) and are resuming their careers. And oh, the careers they had! 8 Oscar nods between them. I'm a big classic film fan and I can't decide which one I love more. As I read this book, I realize I don't have to choose.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger. This dual biography of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her sister, Lee Radziwill, turned out to be a rather unsavory book. Because Lee Radziwill turned out to be a rather unlikable person. I'm surprised this book revealed that, because Lee, who died last year, cooperated with the authors. It makes me think that if Lee comes off this poorly here, she must have been twice as icky in real life.

I get the basic premise of the book: the shy, introspective older sister was for decades the most famous and photographed woman in the world and uncomfortable of the spotlight, while the outgoing kid sister who longed for recognition was consigned to her shadow. I have sisters, so in terms of the sibling rivalry, I am not without sympathy for both Lee and Jackie.

But Lee comes off as staggeringly shallow and self-obsessed. For example, after JFK's assassination, she said, "Finally, I'm free." Yes, it must have been a nightmare for her to be a satellite of the Kennedys, being feted at two White House dinners, traveling with the First Lady to India and Pakistan and with the President to the Berlin Wall. Not to mention that she was now "free" because of a murder.

If you've read anything about Jackie over the years, you won't learn much new here. 

To make my long review short, I don't recommend this book. It's not that it's badly written, it's just shallow and unpleasant.

3. What will read next? A mystery. First Degree, by David Rosenfelt. It's the second book in the Andy Carpenter series I just discovered this past summer.