Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fairy Tale Interrupted (RoseMarie Terenzio)

Count me in with the throngs who always looked for the latest gossip about JFK Jr. When he married the beautiful Carolyn Bessette, it seemed like you couldn’t go a day without some sort of story about them, true or not. When they both died, along with Bessette’s sister Lauren, in a tragic plane crash, people mourned as if they knew them. RoseMarie Terenzio really did know them, as John’s administrative assistant at George magazine, and is sharing her memories in Fairy Tale Interrupted.

Even though RoseMarie worked for John, she quickly became a personal friend. Kennedy was a very private person, as was his family, and did not let too many people into his circle. When John met Carolyn, “Rosie”, as John called her, became one of the few people they both trusted. Terenzio eventually saw herself as John’s “chief of staff”, guarding his time and privacy, even from his employees. She and Carolyn were great friends, with Carolyn taking RoseMarie shopping for designer duds and buying her expensive haircuts. RoseMarie also had the grim task of cleaning out the couple’s apartment after the plane crash.

I’m sure Terenzio’s goal was to give her readers the “truth” about John and Carolyn’s life. Carolyn especially was portrayed as an “ice princess” in the media, and Fairy Tale Interrupted definitely disputes this fact. However, considering how private they both were, would they really want Terenzio writing a book filled with personal memories (not all of which are flattering, especially in John’s case)? In addition, be warned that much of this book is not even about John and Carolyn at all. It’s about Terenzio herself….boasting about having John’s ear, getting thousands of dollars of Christmas presents from them, and lamenting the fact that she was out of a job after the tragic crash. It seems if she was as loyal to the couple as she says she was, that she would keep her memories private…just like the Kennedys would want.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Gossip (Beth Gutcheon)

I must admit, when I first picked up Gossip, I had a hard time understanding where Beth Gutcheon was going with it. She seemed to be all over the map, introducing characters left and right, none of which were, at the start, very well developed. I kept putting it down and picking it up again. Then, early one Sunday afternoon, I started reading again, kept reading, and finished Sunday night before bed. The plot and characters finally came together in a very shocking and devastating ending.

Gossip is narrated by Lovie French, a high-end clothing-store owner in Manhattan. We learn Lovie’s back story, including her time in high school with her friends, Dinah and Avis. Avis is a buttoned-up, reserved art dealer, while Dinah is a free-for-all newspaper columnist. The story weaves around these three characters as they grow up, marry, and have children. Once all of the characters are introduced, Gossip really picks up, and they seamlessly interact with each other. Avis, Dinah, and Lovie are not spring chickens. The fact that Gutcheon chose to revolve her story around them proves that this age group can be more interesting than the twentysomething “chick lit” genre.

While talking behind another’s back does happen a lot in Gossip, I was surprised that Gutcheon chose this as her title. It seemed that there were no repercussions when Lovie heard things about her friends through the grapevine. Don’t think that Lovie is innocent in all this either, as she’s holding a big secret as well. Even through the gossip, there is an underlying sense of calm. But once things start happening, the novel comes to its dramatic ending in a big way.

Don’t let the slow start of Gossip keep you from plowing through this multi-generational novel. The ending is your reward.


This review can also be found on

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Elizabeth the Queen (Sally Bedell Smith)

Events related to Queen Elizabeth II and/or London have been in the news quite a lot lately, from the much-watched royal wedding in 2011 to the Summer Olympics in 2012. 2012 also marks 60 years on the throne, which was only surpassed by Queen Victoria. Even though there has just lately been a renewed interest in the monarchy, she has done her job and put duty above everything else since her ascension to the throne in 1952. Imagine the weight of your country (and the robes...and the crown) being put on your shoulders at the age of 25.

Sally Bedell Smith's Elizabeth the Queen is a thoroughly researched, 537-page biography. It begins with the story of her parents, famously depicted in the the award-winning movie, The King's Speech. The Queen grew up during World War II, repairing army trucks, never one to refrain from getting her hands dirty. When her father died, her reign began, and continued through 12 (and counting) prime ministers (the first being Sir Winston Churchill) and the many, many dramas of her children and family.

Bedell Smith wrote Elizabeth the Queen for 2012, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year. At times, it can read slowly, and some things were not really necessary to include (I don't need to read graphic details of the Queen watching horse intercourse.). Smith is also extremely flattering to the Queen and presents her in an always positive light, even though there have been controversies along the way. However, it is fascinating to read about the ins and outs of the Queen's life, from her sumptous events to her comfort in routines. This is a very worthwhile read.