I’m essentially quite nosey. I’ve also had a long fascination with the Kennedy family and the historical figures associated with them. I’ve read biographies, watched dramas and documentaries. I find all the political intrigue, mystery and betrayal surrounding the family fascinating. And then there is the ‘Kennedy curse’…
So you can imagine my excitement when I was offered the opportunity to read and review The Second Marriage, the new historical fiction novel detailing the years leading up to the second marriage of Jackie Kennedy to Aristotle Onassis, allegedly the richest man in the world throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The novel also portrays the marriage, essentially a ‘love triangle’ made up of Jackie, Aristotle (known as Ari to his friends) and the famous opera singer Maria Callas who was Ari’s lover long before Jackie came along.
The Second Marriage, written by bestselling historical novelist Gill Paul is a character driven novel. In the US it is titled Jackie and Maria – in my view a much more fitting title as this is Maria’s story just as much as it is Jackie’s. And crikey what a story both of these legendary women had.
Like a lot of people I already knew a lot of Jackie’s story. However I’ve never really understood why she married Ari – I don’t mean to sound shallow, but in my view he wasn’t anything to look at! Many people think it was Ari’s fortune that attracted Jackie to him but now that I’ve read The Second Marriage, I truly believe she married him for much deeper reasons; reasons that I actually empathise with.
However what really unsettled me whilst reading this novel are Ari’s reasons for marrying Jackie. Yes, I appreciate this is Gill Paul ‘creative response‘ to ‘historical events‘ (which she herself is very clear about in her Author Notes), but as a reader it disturbed and gripped me in equal measures.
I also really struggled with Ari’s treatment of Maria, who I think was my favourite character. Prior to reading The Second Marriage all I knew about Maria Callas was that she was Greek, Ari’s mistress and a famous opera singer. I didn’t know about her mother’s abusive and destructive treatment of her nor her desperation for a child. The press apparently often depicted Maria as difficult and temperamental. If she was I can definitely understand why. Gill Paul portrays her as faithful, passionate and dedicated. Whilst reading this novel my heart broke for Maria many times.
Reading this novel encouraged me to listen to Maria Callas singing. I’m actually listening to her now as I write this blog post. I’ve never really listened to opera music before but since reading this book I’m now a bit of a fan of Maria Callas. Her voice is so beautiful and so soothing.
In this novel Gill Paul also explores the relationship between Jackie and her sister Lee. This is an intriguing and deeply complex portrayal and deserves a novel all of its own. I have a sister myself I know hand on heart my sister and I would never do to each other what Jackie and Lee did in this novel. Personally I found the sisters’ relationship disturbing yet extremely fascinating.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to read and review The Second Marriage, a captivating novel exploring one of the most dramatic love triangle’s in history.
The Second Marriage was published in paperback in the UK on 17 September 2020. To follow the blog tour please see below.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂