ISBN 0-316-18753-4 Little, Brown, and Company New York 1995
In Her Sister’s Shadow is a book I actually read in 2009 and am just now writing about because it took me so long to finish reading (as I had to force myself to finish this book). I borrowed this book from one of my friends and I was really interested in reading about the life of Lee Radziwill (Jackie Kennedy Onassis‘ sister, hence the title). I knew Ms. Radziwill was known as some sort of princess and knew she lived a glamorous life, but really had never paid much attention to the details. Well, this book did not spur any more interest. I expected more from this book than was actually given.
I learned about how the sisters were brought up (divorced parents, alcoholic father, cold mother). I was sad to learn that they really did not respect their stepfather Hugh Auchincloss like I thought they did. The sisters were always trying to upstage each other, but I liked how they supported each other in times of crisis. Of course, when Jackie became First Lady, the balance in the relationship was never the same. And I certainly did not know Lee was first to have an affair with Aristotle Onassis. When Jackie married Onassis, I don’t think their relationship was ever the same again.
Both of the sisters seemed to just go from social event to social event and from affair to affair and Lee seemed to enjoy redecorating any house she lived in or bought. And that’s about it. Sure Lee had interesting friends like Andy Warhol and Truman Capote, but she never really found her niche in life. Or she wasn’t willing to stick with anything for a long while (acting, a design business). Also, it seems she never really had any close friends that were women.
Lee pursued her first husband, Michael Canfield, relentlessly, then quickly tired of him. She married a Polish man from a distinguished family and I guess if the World Wars had not have happened, Stanislas Radziwill would have been some sort of Polish prince. Instead, he was a businessman in over his head and lost most of his money by the time he died (after Lee divorced him before all the money was gone). Later Lee befriended and married Herbert Ross, the movie producer, after his wife died. I got the feeling she preyed upon his vulnerability after his wife’s illness and death. Their marriage only lasted a few years and they divorced and he died suddenly thereafter.
After reading this book, I have no real feeling for Lee Radziwill. She and her sister were so private, it is hard to really know what they were about. I will say that they were somewhat closer to their children than their mother was to them, and their children seemed to love and support them emotionally more than vice-versa, so they must have been okay as mothers. Lee had two children with Radziwill, Anthony and Tina. Anthony died from cancer shortly after JFK, Jr. died. I don’t think she had ever been extremely close to her daughter when her daughter was young and during her teen years. She continues have a relationship with her daughter and with Caroline Kennedy. Maybe that is her chief role–to now be supportive of the two girl cousins who lost their beloved brothers and fathers. But who really knows.
I was looking up more information on Ms. Radziwill on the internet and apparently missed this excellent posting on Lee Radziwill on the style blog Cote de Texas. I think I might have enjoyed this posting more than In Her Sister’s Shadow.