It’s an absolute pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for The Second Marriage by Gill Paul, and sharing my review: published by Avon Books on 17th September, it’s now available as an e-book, in paperback and as an audiobook. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
Gill tells me I was one of the first people she told about the ideas behind this book – and I was so excited when she did. Mind you, I can also remember being pretty excited when she shared her plans for books about the Romanovs – and I really loved both The Secret Wife (review here) and The Lost Daughter (you’ll find that review here). And I think it might have been at yet another bookish party (remember those days?) that she whispered about her research into Wallis Simpson – I might just have been even more enthusiastic that one, and Another Woman’s Husband was everything I’d hoped it would be, then perhaps a little more (you’ll find my review here). And now, Onassis, the Kennedys, and Maria Callas – goodness, I was SO looking forward to this one…
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?
Historical fiction? I guess it can rather depend on your age – the Kennedies, Callas, Aristotle Onassis are all figures I remember so well from my youth, their glamorous lifestyles so many miles removed from mine. This book was entirely enthralling, as Gill Paul – in her own inimitable fashion – brings them vividly to life and tracks their turbulent lives.
Some of you who might be a tad younger – or not enamoured of opera – might never have heard Maria Callas’ exceptional voice. But then again, you just might have – do you perhaps remember La mamma morta from the film Philadelphia? It’s an aria from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, and it always makes me cry. And thanks to YouTube, it also gives you the chance to see how very beautiful she was…
I’m an immense fan of the way Gill Paul puts her stories together – extensive research, which she then stitches together, selecting and discarding, building in all those little details, filling in the gaps through the use of her imagination and creativity, building a story with such depth and emotion by using her superlative story-telling skills. And do read the book’s “Historical Afterword” when you finish the story – I found it almost as fascinating as the book itself.
I really don’t want to take you through the story step-by-step: I guess most of us will have some awareness of Ari’s long relationship with Maria Callas, and his subsequent – intriguing and unexpected – marriage to the widowed Jackie Kennedy. At heart, this is an exceptionally moving love story – by telling much of the story from Maria’s viewpoint, she keeps your sympathy throughout, and is treated quite appallingly. Ari is seen entirely through the eyes of others – which makes your sympathy and understanding considerably more ambivalent, and many of his actions all the more reprehensible and difficult to understand. He’s an absolute rogue, constantly attracted by celebrity and those trophy relationships – until he grasps the ultimate trophy, to find it wasn’t what he really wanted after all.
And then we have Jackie’s viewpoint – less likeable at first, perhaps the product of her upbringing and the era in which she lived – but her love for Jack (JFK) is wonderfully conveyed, despite the fact that his behaviour at times was quite dreadful. Why did she marry Onassis? Was it just for the blank chequebook – or did he give her that elusive sense of safety and security that she so desperately needed?
The supporting cast in this book is a complete (and fascinating) “who’s who” of the 60s, from Winston Churchill in later life to Marilyn Monroe nearing the end of hers, with every shade of the celebrity spectrum in between. The way the author recreates the world of the rich and famous, the privileged and the notorious, in all its excess, making you part of it all, is entirely engrossing and quite wonderful. And although you might think you know how the story ends, it makes you no less engaged by its many twists and turns – this isn’t a biography after all, it’s a novel, but quite fascinatingly manages to bring the best of both.
I really loved this book. I learned a lot about the history, and there were quite a few surprises along the way – if I started with the “I never knew…” I’d be writing this review until Christmas. But as well as intriguing me with its insights and revelations and exercising my brain, the whole story totally engaged my heart. Just wonderful – and very highly recommended.
About the author
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.