A moment in history, characters we recognize, some new faces, and a story that will draw you in and not let you go: that’s what you’re getting when you pick up our May FFL book club pick, Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul. This historical fiction novel tells the interwoven stories of Jackie Kennedy and Maria Callas and their relationships with tycoon Aristotle Onassis. But this book is more than a love story–it’s about grief, politics, the fervor of the 1960s and 1970s, the media firestorm that follows, and self-realization.
Even if you think you know the story of Jackie O, this book will give you a new part of her story to sink into. And it will introduce you intimately to opera star Maria Callas, a name well-known in many parts of the world, but not often explored in literature.
Our book begins in the late 1950s–renowned opera singer Maria Callas is no longer feeling the spark in her marriage, and when she meets shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, she is immediately drawn to him and they begin a love affair. Across the ocean, in the United States, Jackie Kennedy is struggling to balance her desire for a family with her husband’s political aspirations. As the years based, history as we know it unfolds–Kennedy is elected presidents, killed in Texas in 1963–but we get to explore the lives of these two women, how they are impacted by the world, and ultimately how they become intertwined when Aristotle Onassis sets his sights on the widow Jackie at the expense of the life he has built with Maria.
This is a fascinating historical novel because the lives of these two women–and we get both perspectives throughout–are similar in many key ways, but also so different on the surface. An opera singer, a First Lady–but drawn together because of one man who seemed both larger than life and so intimately aware of their every need. The novel also covers a period of time we don’t see a lot in historical fiction–the 60s and 70s–but doesn’t become a novel about Vietnam, or about hippies, or anything like that. It’s focused, and also expansive in what it covers, but by the end, you’ll feel like you know these women so well.
Here in the FFL book club, we want to pick books with strong female characters that inspire you, but we also want you to genuinely enjoy reading the book. Even if you think you know about the Kennedys, or even about Callas, I hope that you’ll still find Jackie and Maria to be an enjoyable, immersive reading experience. Not being able to put a book down is always a good sign, and the first time I read this, I found myself saying “just one more chapter” again and again.
I hope you’ll feel the same way!
Be sure to join us in our Facebook group for discussions about the book–starting on the 15th of each month–as well as general discussions about books all month long.
Get your copy of Jackie and Maria here.
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