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Book Rec: Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul

Updated: Apr 9

The Glitz. The Glamour. The Heartbreak. Gill Paul weaves together the lives of Maria Callas, world renowned opera singer, and Jackie Kennedy. While there is certainly artistic license taken, Jackie and Maria is an interesting take on the lives of two famous women.

two women, presumably Jackie O and Maria looking away from each other

Jackie Kennedy was beautiful, sophisticated, and contemplating leaving her ambitious young senator husband. Life in the public eye with an overly ambitious--and unfaithful—man who could hardly be coaxed to return from a vacation after the birth of a stillborn child was breaking her spirit. So when she's offered a holiday on the luxurious yacht owned by billionaire Ari Onassis, she says a meeting that will ultimately change her life.

Maria Callas is at the height of her operatic career and widely considered to be the finest soprano in the world. And then she's introduced to Aristotle Onassis, the world’s richest man and her fellow Greek. Already married, but with pressures on all sides from opera house managers and a hostile press, she finds her life being turned upside down by this hyper-intelligent and impeccably charming man.

Little by little, Maria’s and Jackie’s lives begin to overlap, and they come closer and closer until everything they know about the world changes on a dime.

Discussion Guide (spoilers ahead)!

  1. Maria and Jackie were quite different characters, with a few things in common: they both lost babies, and they both fell for Aristotle Onassis. What do you think were the main differences and similarities between them?

  2. Maria had to fight all her life: with her mother, with opera house directors, with the press, with her husband, and then with Onassis. Is that why she got the reputation for being a ‘diva’? Critics still consider her one of the greatest sopranos of all time. Is it necessary to be “difficult” to be the best? Would she have attracted the same criticism if she were a man?

  3. Why do you think Onassis did not marry Maria, yet married Jackie so precipitously?

  4. We already know from the start that JFK was assassinated, and that Jackie subsequently married Onassis. How does knowing what is going to happen affect the reading experience?

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