French Fridays: Jacqueline in Paris

Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah.

Happy French Friday!

Today, I’m thrilled to share with you the fabulous new novel from my friend* Ann Mah, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Vintage and Mastering the Art of French Eating. Paris + historical fiction + Jacqueline Kennedy as a young girl = a book that will appeal to multiple audiences and it’s one of my favourite recent reads.

From the publisher:

In September 1949 Jacqueline Bouvier arrives in postwar Paris to begin her junior year abroad. She’s twenty years old, socially poised but financially precarious, and all too aware of her mother’s expectations that she make a brilliant match. Before relenting to family pressure, she has one year to herself far away from sleepy Vassar College and the rigid social circles of New York, a year to explore and absorb the luminous beauty of the City of Light. Jacqueline is immediately catapulted into an intoxicating new world of champagne and châteaux, art and avant-garde theater, cafés and jazz clubs. She strikes up a romance with a talented young writer who shares her love of literature and passion for culture – even though her mother would think him most unsuitable.

But beneath the glitter and rush, France is a fragile place still haunted by the Occupation. Jacqueline lives in a rambling apartment with a widowed countess and her daughters, all of whom suffered as part of the French Resistance just a few years before. In the aftermath of World War II, Paris has become a nest of spies, and suspicion, deception, and betrayal lurk around every corner. Jacqueline is stunned to watch the rise of communism – anathema in America, but an active movement in France – never guessing she is witnessing the beginning of the political environment that will shape the rest of her life—and that of her future husband.

Evocative, sensitive, and rich in historic detail, Jacqueline in Paris portrays the origin story of an American icon. Ann Mah brilliantly imagines the intellectual and aesthetic awakening of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, and illuminates how France would prove to be her one true love, and one of the greatest influences on her life.

What struck me about Jacqueline in Paris, apart from how eloquently it’s written, is just how much attention to detail there is. Though it’s fiction, as you’re reading it you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a work of non-fiction – it’s so well-researched. Ann has managed to take the life of a famously private person whose personal papers are “largely unavailable to the public”, and used facts, interviews with those who knew her, and memories and turned it into a wonderfully complete picture of Jacqueline’s life that year in post-war Paris. The Author’s note at the end of the book shows just how much work went into this, how many sources she used to fill out the picture of post-war Paris, politics and all!

I admit I started reading this book with very little knowledge of Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy Onassis) but I have an interest in historical fiction and have recently read a few books set in France during and post-World War II. The appeal of Paris as a book’s setting is always hard to resist and, of course, I know Ann is an excellent writer and after the first few pages, I was hooked and keen to learn more about both Jacqueline and life in Paris at that time. It’s difficult to say which part of the story held my interest more – the-coming-of-age-in-Paris story or the Paris-emerging-from-the-war story (with the “spies, suspicion, deception and betrayal”) but all together it makes for a fascinating read.

This is obviously a book for “Jackie” fans who are interested in learning about who she was before she became who we “know” her as. For those thinking they might not want to read this book because it’s “just” about Jacqueline Bouvier and you’re not interested in her story, give this a chance! For those who think they are not into historical fiction, I challenge you to read a couple of chapters and NOT keep going. There’s intrigue, romance, politics and, well, Paris.

Beautifully written, rich subject matter and Paris. What more could you want from a French Friday pick?


Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah.Buy Jacqueline in Paris on Amazon (this affiliate link should bring you to the Amazon store in, or closest to, your country). For free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.  This post also contains affiliate links from The Book Depository. This means that if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you in advance!


* Disclosure: Ann provided me with an advance e-copy of Jacqueline in Paris for review purposes (I also bought my own copy). Although Ann is a friend, this is a book I would 100% recommend even if she wasn’t! I was not asked by the publisher to review this and the post has not been reviewed prior to publication. Please buy a copy and support Ann!


Buy my books! In the French kitchen with kids and French Food for Everyone: le goûter  (after school snacks) and le dîner (dinner) are out now! Click here for details and how to order!

Books by Mardi Michels.

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1 thought on “French Fridays: Jacqueline in Paris”

  1. Well researched, a book that mixes fact and fiction, is usually a good read. It sounds as though Ms Mah has been able to combine the reality of Paris at that time with the imagined existence of the future first lady in her year away. Nice review, Mardi.


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