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About The Book

The life and legacy of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy Jr., are reexamined in this captivating and effervescent biography that is perfect for fans of My Travels with Mrs. Kennedy, What Remains, and Fairy Tale Interrupted.

A quarter of a century after the plane crash that claimed the lives of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn, and her sister Lauren, the magnitude of this tragedy remains fresh. Yet, Carolyn is still an enigmatic figure, a woman whose short life in the spotlight was besieged with misogyny and cruelty.

Amidst today’s cultural reckoning about the way our media treats women, Elizabeth Beller explores the real person behind the tabloid headlines and media frenzy. When she began dating America’s prince, Carolyn was increasingly thrust into an overwhelming spotlight filled with relentless paparazzi who reacted to her reserve with a campaign of harassment and vilification.

To this day, she is still depicted as a privileged princess—icy, vapid, and drug-addicted. She has even been accused of being responsible for their untimely death, allegedly delaying take-off until she finished her pedicure. But now, she is revealed as never before.

A fiercely independent woman devoted to her adopted city and career, Carolyn relied on her impeccable eye and drive to fly up the ranks at Calvin Klein in the glossy, high-stakes fashion world of the 1990s. When Carolyn met her future husband, John was immediately drawn to her strong-willed personality, effortless charm, and high intelligence. Their relationship would change her life and catapult her to dizzying fame, but it was her vibrant life before their marriage and then hidden afterwards, that is truly fascinating.

Based on in-depth research and exclusive interviews with friends, family members, teachers, roommates, and colleagues, and featuring never-before-seen family photos, this comprehensive biography reveals a multi-faceted woman worthy of our attention regardless of her husband and untimely death.

About The Author

Photograph © Jeff Bark

Elizabeth Beller is a writer and journalist specializing in culture, art, and travel with more than fifteen years of experience as a book and story editor. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Vogue, and Travel + Leisure, among other outlets. Before turning to writing and editing, she spent two years as a script reader for Miramax, followed by twelve years in the art world at Sotheby’s Auction House. She splits her time between New York and New Orleans with her husband, writer Thomas Beller, and their two children.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (July 4, 2024)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982178963

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Raves and Reviews

* New York Times Bestseller * LA Times Bestseller * USA Today Bestseller *

"A book that is as alluring and intriguing as its subject, Once Upon a Time is a marvelous read. We all 'know' Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, but we don't really know her. Now, with Beller's book, this charismatic, iconic woman becomes real, which makes her tragedy that much more painful. This is a book you will gobble up."
–Susan Orlean, New York Times bestselling author of The Library Book and The Orchid Thief

“Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, wife of Jackie’s son, John, has always been such an enigma–until now. In Once Upon a Time, Elizabeth Beller reveals the true woman behind the mystery, and what a woman she turns out to be: fabulous, fierce, fashionable, flawed… formidable. Despite its sad ending, Carolyn’s journey as told on these pages somehow still feels like a triumph.”
–J. Randy Taraborrelli, New York Times bestselling author of Jackie: Public, Private, Secret

“Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s Yohji Yamamoto wraps and Calvin Klein suits told us more about the insatiable appetites of a voracious public than they revealed about the woman who wore them. But now, she is unveiled as never before: the woman who was so much more than a fashion icon and a famous wife.”
–Robin Givhan, Pulitzer Prize winning fashion journalist and author of The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History

Once Upon a Time is an intimate and sympathetic portrait of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy that is as enthralling as she was.”
–Dana Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

“Composed with ineffable poignancy, Once Upon a Time reveals Bessette-Kennedy’s existence beyond just being the wife of a beloved presidential son. Interweaving the chilling storyline of the violations by paparazzi who turned Bessette-Kennedy into their ‘favorite victim,’ making her world smaller and provoking her into a cycle of crisis, Beller so starkly demonstrates that ‘fear led Carolyn to hide away, something completely at odds with her personality.’”
–Carl Sferrazza Anthony, author of Camera Girl: The Coming of Age of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy

"In this heartbreaking biography, Elizabeth Beller has captured the life and milieu of the most glamorous couple of the 1990s."
–Edmund White, bestselling author of A Boy's Own Story and The Humble Lover

"The absorbing biography isn’t without juicy moments, but also doesn’t rely on sensationalism to make the case for Bessette-Kennedy’s importance; it’s a nuanced, complicated book about a person who had similar qualities, and it’s a must read for anyone who wants to go beyond the surface of a story that’s captivated the world for more than two decades."
–Town & Country

"Once Upon a Time wants us to know that, through it all, they were meant to be."
New York Times

"Beller, writing into a world, and an America, at war with itself, is wiser than to lean on legend. She leans instead on grace, and forgiveness, for a woman who lived inside 'the imposition of a narrative line on disparate images.'"
Air Mail

"Twenty-five years after her death in a plane crash, a new book, Once Upon a Time, delves adoringly into the life story of JFK Jr.'s late wife."
Washington Post

"A sensitive portrait of a misunderstood public figure."

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