A poignant, evocative, and wonderfully gossipy account of the two sisters who represented style and class above all else—Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill—from the authors of Furious Love.
When sixty-four-year-old Jackie Kennedy Onassis died in her Fifth Avenue apartment, her younger sister Lee wept inconsolably. Then Jackie’s thirty-eight-page will was read. Lee discovered that substantial cash bequests were left to family members, friends, and employees—but nothing to her. “I have made no provision in this my Will for my sister, Lee B. Radziwill, for whom I have great affection, because I have already done so during my lifetime,” read Jackie’s final testament.
Drawing on the authors’ candid interviews with Lee Radziwill, The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters explores their complicated relationship, placing them at the center of twentieth-century fashion, design, and style.
In life, Jackie and Lee were alike in so many ways. Both women had a keen eye for beauty—in fashion, design, painting, music, dance, sculpture, poetry—and both were talented artists. Both loved pre-revolutionary Russian culture, and the blinding sunlight, calm seas, and ancient olive groves of Greece. Both loved the siren call of the Atlantic, sharing sweet, early memories of swimming with the rakish father they adored, Jack Vernou Bouvier, at his East Hampton retreat. But Jackie was her father’s favorite, and Lee, her mother’s. One would grow to become the most iconic woman of her time, while the other lived in her shadow. As they grew up, the two sisters developed an extremely close relationship threaded with rivalry, jealousy, and competition. Yet it was probably the most important relationship of their lives.
My Thoughts: Since I am a fan of all things Jackie, as well as the Kennedys, I was excited to learn more about her sisterhood bond with Lee Radziwill; therefore, The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters flew off the shelf and into my hands. The story began with Jackie’s shocking will, in which she left nothing to Lee.
Sweeping back in time to their beginnings, we explore their relationship with each other: their rivalries at home; their basic differences; and the sense of favoritism for Jackie by their father, all of which set the stage for an intense competition between them.
Over the years, they were alternately close and distant, the competitiveness a constant, even as their sisterhood bond would win out in times of crisis. At those times, they were usually there for each other.
I liked learning more about Lee’s life after she decided to follow Jackie’s example by pursuing a profession. For Lee, interior design was her special talent, and I loved reading about the homes she decorated, including some of her own.
Jackie’s bookish tastes had taken her into publishing, which suited her temperament and skills.
By this time, both were living in Manhattan apartments, but each had summer homes on the islands. They had discovered that they loved spending time with their children as extended family, offering the closeness between the cousins that they had always enjoyed with each other.
But the push and pull of their relationship continued, and by the time they each had more traumatic losses in their later years, some of which were financial for Lee, the differences between them grew. Sadly, their chance for the closeness they longed for was no longer there. A poignant tale of sisters, losses, and how family ties can only carry one so far. 4.5 stars.