'Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief Letters, November 1963'
Authors: Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis
Published: St. Martin's Press; Oct. 2010
Genre: Biography and memoir; History
Synopsis: Never have I been so filled with revulsion, anger, and sorrow as when I heard of your husband's death," wrote Winston Churchill to Jackie Kennedy on November 24, 1963. And a fourth-grade Nebraska farm boy wrote to little Caroline Kennedy, "I am sorry to hear about your Daddy. God will take good care of him." Immediately after President Kennedy's assassination, more than 1,250,000 letters arrived at the White House from the famous and ordinary citizens alike, expressing their sorrow and sympathy for the president's young widow, Although she promised that the letters would be displayed at the Kennedy Library, they remained filed in a warehouse for decades until the opening of the library building. A controversial culling reducing the collection to 368,000 letters also delayed cataloguing of the letters until 1988. Mulvaney ((Diana and Jackie) and former publishing executive De Angelis regard the collection as a "poignant time capsule," and they include an informative historical backdrop for their selections, including letters from society queen Babe Paley, Rev. Billy Graham, and publisher Bennett Cerf, among many others. For those who relive the pain of the Kennedy assassination every November 22, this volume will provide company and perhaps some consolation.
My Take: I've recently started watching the 1960s AMC hit Mad Men. Yes, I realize I am one of the last people to jump on this bandwagon. But what does this mean for me? Well, I am becoming obsessed with everything mid-century! I know, I know it's been sweeping the nation and I am a few years behind - shocking! Well oddly enough, the episode I just watched before picking up this book was when all of the women were watching Jackie's famous tour of the White House renovations she did and they were atwitter about her. If you watch the show, you will know that the ad men were working on a campaign for Nixon. Clearly they lost. John Kennedy's youth, appeal, and promises swept the nation and the world in the early 1960s and this book really encapsulates exactly how heart-wrenching it was to have that all taken away in one quick moment.
Mulvaney and De Angelis do a wonderful job presenting an amazing amount of condolence letters within their historical context. It's one thing to read a bunch of letters pouring out their grief to Jackie and her children in her time of need, but it's a whole other reality to be reminded of exactly what the nation was feeling when this occurred. This book is a quick little history lesson of the early 1960s and it really does tell much of what was occurring politically and pop culturally, much of this because of the Kennedy's.
Yes, I am too young to have been alive during the assassination of JFK but that doesn't mean that I was not affected or brought up under the mythical, almost royal glow under which the Kennedy's produced still. While JFK was not in office for long, his effect on America and the world was certainly long lasting.
Now the letters. There are those from political figures, Hollywood stars, family members, and everyday people. So many people felt compelled to write. It's amazing. I've never felt compelled to write to someone I don't know so I wonder if I would have back then. The book is sprinkled with both photos of the letters and photos of the family. It's one of those books that, while you could read quickly, I would recommend sifting through slowly, wandering through chapter by chapter every once in a while, because it is sad and poignant.
Cover Lust: Personally, I think this cover really captures the book. The cursive script matched with the photo is really eye catching to me!