‘The President’s Wife; a Glamorous Opera Star; the rivalry that shook the world…‘
– The Second Marriage
It is a great pleasure to join the blog tour today with the #1 bestselling author of The Secret Wife, Gill Paul and her latest novel The Second Marriage ( Released in the US as Jackie and Maria : A Novel of Jackie Kennedy & Maria Callas) Published on September 17th with Avon Books, it is described as ‘a story of love, passion, and tragedy as the lives of Jackie Kennedy and Maria Callas are intertwined—and they become the ultimate rivals, in love with the same man.’
A fascinating insight into the lives of these people whose legacy continues to intrigue. Please do read on for my thoughts….
[ About the Book ]
When her first marriage ends in tragedy, Jackie Kennedy fears she’ll never love again. But all that changes when she encounters…
Successful and charming, Ari Onassis is a man who promises her the world. Yet soon after they marry, Jackie learns that his heart also belongs to another…
A beautiful, famed singer, Maria Callas is in love with Jackie’s new husband – and she isn’t going to give up.
Little by little, Jackie and Maria’s lives begin to tangle in a dangerous web of secrets, scandal and lies.
But with both women determined to make Ari theirs alone, the stakes are high. How far will they go for true love?
[ My Review ]
I am a huge fan of Maria Callas. Described as probably the most influential opera singer of the 20th century, her voice touched the hearts of many and continues to do so today. I get great pleasure out of playing her music with the volume up in my kitchen when on my own. Her music strikes a chord deep inside that no one else can match. But behind that voice was a very fragile person, a person who suffered deeply and carried an increasing amount of insecurities on her shoulders. Aside from music, Maria had one huge passion in life, her love for a man who would never fully be hers, Greek tycoon, Aristotle Onassis.
Jackie Kennedy, who many now refer to as Jackie O, was quite the enigma. I knew very little of her life or of her relationship with Aristotle Onassis. Following on from the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Jackie had her own issues to deal with. A lonely path lay ahead unless she proactively took charge of her destiny which she did by marrying again. Against all the advice, she married Aristotle Onassis and in doing so unwittingly broke the heart of Maria Callas.
Gill Paul is very clear that in writing this book, she took many liberties and created fictional versions of Maria Callas, Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis. The Second Marriage is a book of fiction with imagined dialogues and invented conversations but there is a very strong hint of truth, with factual events and real-life characters depicted throughout.
The book is divided into five sections, five acts recounting the real-life opera that played out for the media and the world at the time.
Maria Callas was born into a family that had very little love for her. Her mother would pass comments on her weight and her general disposition, comparing her to her sister, who was considered a beauty. These hurtful remarks had a long-term affect on Maria Callas, with her weight an ongoing battle in her life. She married Giovanni Battista Meneghini, a wealthy Italian merchant, who was nearly 30 years her senior. Their love and respect was mutual in the early years and as Maria’s career took off, he eventually became her manager. For many years they were happy until Maria met the enigmatic Aristotle Onassis. He alighted a passion within her that was no longer there with her husband but their relationship was a tempestuous one, with heated arguments and stormy fights. Theirs was a doomed relationship from the beginning but Maria remained true to her unequivocal love for him to the end.
Gill Paul recreates their lives and as a reader you are completely drawn into the world that they inhabited. Their Mediterranean temperaments were well matched in many ways, but Onassis was a man who liked to have conquests in both his business and his private life and perhaps Maria was just too available for this man who liked the challenge of the chase. It was Jackie Kennedy, so very different to Maria Callas, who Onassis set his eyes on next.
Although a work of fiction, Gill Paul very much brings to life the world that Jackie Kennedy inhabited. Reading about her relationship with the Kennedy family was really fascinating. Jacqueline Bouvier was born into money. Her mother had clear ambitions for her daughter and prepared her well for all social situations. The ability to portray an image of capability at all times was something her mother instilled in the young girl which in latter years gave off an impression of aloofness and coldness, something which concerned JFK’s campaign committee when he was running for the presidency. Jackie was a product of her upbringing. She was aware of her husband’s possible affairs but she remained at his side, supporting him through the campaign years and it was by his side that her life irrevocably changed on November 22nd 1963 when his life was shockingly cut short. The fear and the pain of that fateful day is wonderfully captured by Gill Paul. Jackie, although traumatised, publicly survived the days that followed but inside she was a mess. Her saviour came in the unlikely form of a man who was never in favour with the US government, Aristotle Onassis.
As Jackie and Onassis’s relationship developed, Maria Callas was left in shock. Following their marriage in 1968, which caused much confusion and shock in society at the time, Maria Callas was abandoned. Jackie Kennedy needed security and safety for her children and Onassis could provide her with this. Was there any love in this marriage? Does anyone really know? Gill Paul has taken the view that this was a marriage of convenience, with both living quite separate lives and Onassis regularly complaining about Jackie’s apparent out-of-control spending. Aristotle, in Gill Paul’s account, chose to return to the arms of Maria over these years. She could never resist him.
The Second Marriage is the story of three very famous people whose lives played out as an opera for the world to see. Gill Paul also introduces the reader to other characters, in particular Lee Radziwill, Jackie’s younger sister, who is painted in a less than favourable light. Lee was counted as one of Truman Capote’s inner circle, one of his Swans and married a number of times but she was also known for being Jackie’s sister, something that clearly rankled with her. Their relationship is mixed over the years. Lee was very supportive following the death of JFK but Gill Paul does highlight the possible affair she had with Aristotle Onassis at one point. The ofttimes quoted line“Oh what a tangled web we weave when at first we start to deceive” by Walter Scott is really fitting for the complex lives of Maria Callas, Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy. Will we ever know the truth? Gill Paul tries to make sense of those years with this compelling fictional account that is sure to encourage a new interest into the life and times of this fascinating era.
The Second Marriage is a work of imagination and Gill Paul does not claim it to be any different stating in the Historical Afterword that –
“My primary purpose in telling this story was to illuminate the characters and seek what seem to me to be emotional truths – but these are my impressions, and biographers, friends and family would not necessarily agree.
My Maria story is written from her point of view, so it is entirely sympathetic. She was a passionate, fiery woman, not a doormat.
It was purported that “Jackie and Jack were like iceberg, meaning no one saw the nine-tenths below the surface. I took this as a key to her character and went further, proposing that she repressed her feelings to such an extent that she wasn’t even in touch with them herself. Few really knew her, not even her sister Lee….they didn’t seem to have discussed their innermost thoughts and feelings often – if ever”
– Gill Paul
The Second Marriage is a captivating and nostalgic tale that provided a unique insight into the lives of these most alluring characters. Filled with passion, pain, rivalry and glamour, The Second Marriage provides a glorious view into the world of Jackie Kennedy, Maria Callas and the mysterious Aristotle Onassis.
Enchanting. Exciting. Evocative.
[ Bio ]
Gill Paul’s historical novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Toronto Globe & Mail and kindle charts, and been translated into twenty languages.
They include THE SECOND MARRIAGE (titled JACKIE AND MARIA in the US), two bestselling novels about the Romanovs – THE SECRET WIFE and THE LOST DAUGHTER – as well as WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, which was shortlisted for the 2013 RNA Epic Novel of the Year award, NO PLACE FOR A LADY, shortlisted for a Love Stories award, and ANOTHER WOMAN’S HUSBAND, about links you might not have suspected between Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana.
Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A HISTORY OF MEDICINE IN 50 OBJECTS, and she speaks at libraries and literary festivals on subjects ranging from the Titanic to the Romanovs.
Gill lives in London, where she is working on her tenth novel, and she swims daily in an outdoor pond.
Website – www.gillpaul.com
Twitter – @GillPaulAUTHOR
Instagram – @gill.paul1