Nemesis: The True Story of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, and the Love Triangle That Brought Down the Kennedys
by Peter Evans
A review by Anna Godbersen
Conspiracy, with its shadowy actions and revelations, always has a whiff of sex to it. And no myth is so laden with conspiracy and sex as the Kennedy myth. Peter Evans's Nemesis adds to the considerable literature on this topic, and it spares none of the usual ingredients.
Set in the floating world of the post-war, international jet-set, it is a story rife with luxury, cruelty, and musical beds. Its anti-hero is Aristotle Onassis (about whom Evans wrote an authorized biography), the coarse, self-made shipping magnate, who is proud of his wealth and prowess as a lover. As its subtitle suggests, Nemesis focuses on the connections between Onassis, Jackie, and the Kennedy clan, but the great conflict of this story, the one that underlies nearly every plot twist, is the one between Onassis and Bobby Kennedy. Evans traces their antagonism to the early 1950s when Bobby, then working as an assistant counsel for Senator McCarthy's investigations, made a stir about Greek shipping families that traded with Red China, thus ruining a business deal of Onassis's. But Evans also attributes their obsessive dislike to a hatred of near-difference; they were both, he writes, "Men who could bully as well as charm short, rumpled-looking men whose clothes always appeared to be off the rack, no matter how much they'd cost."
Jack and Jackie originally met Onassis during Jack's Senate years, but they were more ominously reacquainted during the last year of his presidency. After the stillbirth of what would have been her third child, Jackie flew to Greece to relax with her sister and Onassis (who were lovers), much to the consternation of Jack, and perhaps more vehemently, Bobby. It was during that trip, Evans claims, that Jackie and Onassis became lovers. After the assassination, the widow Jackie became a political tool of great power, and Onassis and Bobby struggled for the rights to her. While Jackie craved the wealth and power a marriage to Onassis would bring, she was also deeply loyal to (and perhaps, says Evans, in love with) Bobby. It was Bobby's assassination in 1968 that allowed their cold, lucrative marriage, and the second half of Nemesis makes the case for Onassis's role in the tragedy. Although the argument is at times murky, Evans's book makes for thoroughly fascinating reading.
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