The Editor

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: Not set

Member Reviews

I found this slightly slow at first but I enjoyed it and wanted to see how James’s relationship with his mother worked out
Was this review helpful?
‘The truth of the matter is, it’s all too much. Clinton, Kennedy, nostalgia, melancholy. Things that are not coming back. Things that perhaps never were. I feel a deep need to believe there was another time, before, when everything seemed right.’

The early 1990s, and a novelist, James Francis Smale (his middle name becomes important as we go!), gets his first book picked up by a major US publisher, and is assigned an editor – none other than Jackie Kennedy Onassis. This is the set-up of Steven Rowley’s novel, which becomes a sort of meta-fiction on the art of writing autobiographical fiction. James has family issues, in particular with his mother, and so has written his novel as a way of coming to terms with her, the family and how their relationship has become strained. It is also, in part, a portrait – in Jackie Onassis – of an icon, a woman who has been through so much and is held in such regard, but who is also just a rather lonely, vulnerable human being. There is a tenderness to the portrayal of her character, and she becomes a second ‘mother’ to the central character, helping him rewrite not only his novel but his relationship with his real mother.

I did enjoy the book immensely, and Rowley is a terrific writer.  The blend of fact and fiction is well done, and setting the book in the last couple of years of Jackie Onassis’ life also, conveniently, places it at the time of the Clinton presidential campaign. There is a feeling in the air of hope, of starting again, which of course echoes the time thirty years earlier when JFK ran for office. James Smale is trying to heal his own life by writing his novel, a kind of therapy if you will. He has a settled life of his own, his long-time partner Daniel is a stable and loving support, but in the course of the book family secrets come to life that shake him to the core. And whilst I did admire the book, this is where it loses the one star for me; the two big set-pieces of the novel – a Thanksgiving dinner and the book launch party – were perhaps just a little too melodramatic, a little too ‘here’s a big moment coming’. And whilst James Smale rewrites the ending to his book to make it a less ‘tidy conclusion’, the actual novel we have seems, well, all tidy at the end. Relationships appear to be mended, mistakes forgiven.  

All in all, a really worthwhile read; there is great empathy for the characters, the hope of dreams is captured well, and the journey is an emotional one. I’m not afraid to say I cried at times, and laughed too. After his first novel ‘Lily and the Octopus’ Steven Rowley is fast-becoming an established author and I fully recommend this one.

(With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this title.)
Was this review helpful?
The Editor is intense… well, the main character, the author James Smale is intense!

It’s almost like he is having to learn how to be human.  How to talk to people, how to have relationships with people.  Every nuance, every expression, every silence is analysed and agonised over in minute detail; pulled apart more thoroughly than his editor might his text.  Relationships are a closed book to James and he pours all the love, anger and sadness he feels for his loved ones into his manuscript.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (JO) is treated very respectfully in the story, as an editor and as a woman.  Whilst her role is important to the story, it is also a side-part:  she is not just Smale’s editor but his psychotherapist and mentor.  The best comparison I can think of is the ‘God’ role that Morgan Freeman often seems to play in films!  JO appears to dispense wisdom, insight and cryptic commentary, then vanishes again and we know not what existence she has outside of the author’s encounters.

This is a deeply intimate insight into one man’s battle to find his place in the world, in his relationships, in his own skin.  The other characters (his mum, JO, Daniel) begin as just that – characters in the theatre of his own internal monologue – and as he develops through the course of the narrative he slowly and painfully attempts to separate and individualise them as people outside of his scope of control, that he can communicate with verbally and physically instead of just mentally (and his father is the most painful example of this particular habit).

I really enjoyed the insight into the writing and editing process, and wanted more of James’ relationship with Daniel and his siblings as these felt warmer, lighter and more natural than his anguish over his parental figures (including Mrs Onassis).  Whilst the book was well-written I found myself frustrated with the level of emotional drama and angst Smale brought to every minute – it exhausted me and made his character seem almost juvenile; I almost expected him to slam doors and scream ‘I hate you!  You ruined my life!’ every time his mother failed to react the way he hoped she would.

The Editor is an interesting, emotionally-draining read with a great concept and an intensely self-focused protagonist.  Fans of literary historical fiction with a tight focus on family dysfunction will enjoy this book.



   I scramble to my feet, knocking a knee against the table with a deafening whack.  And even though I want to scream out in pain, to sink back into the chair and massage my leg, when she turns around and I meet her gaze, I stop.  And then, strangely, I begin to bow.
Because… because… I don’t know the protocol.

– Steven Rowley, The Editor

Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
Was this review helpful?
Aspiring author James Smale's dreams come true when his book is accepted by a renowned publishing company. As he nervously goes to the first meeting with his editor, he discovers to his amazement that she is none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. And even more surprising, she loves his novel and becomes a valued friend as they journey together toward its publication date. 

It proves to be a thorny trek for James, despite the glamour of his famous editor and the invitation to her home on Martha's Vineyard. Because Mrs Onassis is necessarily ruthless and persistent in getting the best out of him. She's also perceptive enough to sense that the novel reflects the difficult relationship he has with his mother, and how important the solving of their impasse is to the book's satisfactory completion.

James is a flawed character, whose evolving writing journey mirrors the unresolved issues he has with his parents. As the story unfolds, it's clear he has questions requiring answers so that he can reach a place of acceptance and hope. This is no mean feat because they have unresolved issues of their own, especially his mother, which makes her react coldly and defensively at times. 

Because James is a mixed up character, full of conflict, doubts and anxieties about his work, relationships, and life in general, he comes across as endearing and relatable. In contrast, Jackie (as he comes to think of her) is set apart as rather mysterious, enigmatic, and a little bit aloof. Though she is businesslike, friendly and approachable as well. 

The whole concept of writing from one’s life experiences, with all the potential for problems and pain it can cause to others, is finely observed. With a delightfully quirky storyline, great characterisation, wonderful wry humour, warmth, and true to life believability, this book is an intriguing, thoughtful read. I loved it! Grateful thanks to The Borough Press and NetGalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Go find your ending...

It’s a big surprise to hitherto-unsuccessful author James Smale when a major publishing house shows an interest in his semi-autobiographical novel, The Quarantine. But not as much of a surprise as it is to discover the identity of the editor  who likes his book: former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. 

(I had to turn to Wikipedia to learn that Jackie did indeed work in publishing in New York City, realising I actually knew little about her beyond her husbands and her iconic image.)

James’s mother Aileen - the fictionalised subject of his book, and a long-time Kennedy admirer - is less than happy about the book and as a result, family relationships have become very strained. But James is completely unprepared for the effects of this and what his mother will ultimately disclose.

James needs to find both a resolution for his book and, it becomes increasingly apparent, for himself.

The Editor is a fascinating, fictional account of the relationship between a writer and his very famous editor, and more widely about mothers and sons, touching also upon the sweep of American political history. (I loved the scene in which James and Jackie  watch, on TV, Bill Clinton’s speech to the 1992 Democratic convention.) A thoughtful and delightful read.
Was this review helpful?
A really original book which was a pleasure to read. This is a refreshingly different story. Jackie Onassis was so incredibly famous it is hard to think of her as an editor. It looks at life and relationships and love. I really liked the ending.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
Was this review helpful?
James Smale is going to make it as a writer – he’s been accepted by a publisher and a meeting is arranged with his new editor.

What he doesn’t yet know is that that editor is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – a living legend, fulfilling her own new career.

‘The Editor’ takes the reader on a journey through mother/son relationships - the shared history and experiences of James and his mother which forms the background to his book, alongside the growing relationship between James and Jackie, and how she edits his story in order to resolve his family issues and better his relationships.

A beautiful book, a wonderful imagining of how Jacqueline Onassis might have been as an editor (which she really was), full of characters to appreciate and care for. Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
A delightful story of a struggling writer who finally receives interest in his novel ... only to find that his editor will be none other than Mrs Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

I don't tend to reach much historical fiction (or historical fiction that is set in the recent past), so I wasn't sure how I would find the portrayal of a well-known icon in fiction, or even whether references to this American icon would be lost on me.

Instead, I found a novel that dealt sensitively with a young man struggling to find a perfect ending, both for himself and his novel, and an editor (which Jackie Kennedy really was in the 80s/90s) who helped him to realise his own story.

Nothing felt forced, and the inclusion of Jackie Kennedy as editor somehow did not jar with the story, instead she was there to complement it, nurture it and complete it, much in the same way as she does to the writer's own novel.

I struggle a little with books about writing and publishing, despite enjoying reading them. This is particularly when characters are discussing their own journey to writing, or methods etc as it always feels a little meta, or derivative. Fortunately, there was very little of this to put me off the story.
Was this review helpful?
A very cleverly written book.

I'd like to say it's understated.

Slow building, not one real stand out moment throughout the novel but it was utterly thought provoking all the same.

The ending was entirely appropriate and I felt a sense of ease when I got to the last page.

Well executed and highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, as it is so different from the usual reading I'd choose.  What I mistake it would have been not to read it. I absolutely loved this novel, which is mainly about a young mans relationship with his mother.  All the relationships in the book are so realistic and heartfelt.  It is at times funny, moving, interesting,  and always entertaining.  The use of Mrs Onassis as editor is inspired.  I highly recommend this novel.
Was this review helpful?
Modern American literature isn’t always a favourite of mine. There is such a difference in tone between a European author writing on a subject and that of their American counterpart. I’m very pleased to say that Rowley has crafted a modern American novel of significance with a pathos and circumspection that is so often missing in the books of his peers. The Editor is a book that made me laugh, it made me think and then ultimately made me cry.

James Smale has been a struggling author in 1990’s New York. Deciding to write about something that he knows, James has put together the bones of a book about his Catholic mother and his agent has managed to sell the idea to a publishing house.

When James is introduced to his new Editor he is shocked to discover that it is none other than Jackie Kennedy Onassis or Mrs Onassis as she is known in the office. This book explores James’s relationship with his Editor as she pushes him to complete his debut novel about his dysfunctional family.

Beautifully observed, the story follows the struggles that James has in coming to terms with the truth about his mother and their family and then the battle to retain a relationship with her after he has aired all of the family’s dirty laundry in public.

Ultimately this is a story about relationships, both the forbidden trysts and the sanctioned and familiar bonds of love and family. Of acceptance and support; fear and loneliness. The Editor is a modern tale that will not fail to affect you.

Although this is a work of fiction it is also a very respectful homage to a former First Lady and one of the most prominent figures in twentieth century America.

Supplied by Net Galley and The Borough Press in exchange for an honest review.

UK Publication Date: Apr 4 2019. 320 pages.
Was this review helpful?
James is finishing his 2nd novel and ends up with a well known editor. At thanksgiving he discovers a secret his mother has been keeping which has a huge impact on him.
Was this review helpful?
This is a lovely little book about a struggling writer who finally gets a publishing deal and one very surprising editor.  I laughed so much throughout this book, and the friendship that develops between the two main characters is beautiful and heartwarming.  

I adored Steven Rowley's first book, Lily and the Octopus (despite the emotional scars it left me with) and The Editor is certainly a worthy followup.  I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next.
Was this review helpful?
After years of trying to make it as a writer in the 1990's New Tork Xity, James Smale finally sells his novel to an editor at a major publishing house : none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie -- or Mrs Onassis, as she's known in office -- has fallen in love with James's candidly autobiographical novel, one that expresses his own dysfunctional family. But when the books forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and his partner, James finds that he can't bring himself to finish the manuscript.

This book made me laugh out loud on several occasions with all the funny moments he writes about. The story is written post JFK and the author makes Jackie's personality jump off the pages. I'm sure many potential authors would do a double take if they walked into their publisher and out that she was Jackie Onassis. This is an entertaining mock memoir of a young author. It's an entertaining and original read. A really enjoyable story. 

I would like to thank NetGalley, HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction and the author Steven Rowley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I really like the premise of this novel - it's the early 90's and aspiring author James *finally* gets a publishing deal, and his editor is none other than THE Jackie Kennedy (Onassis). What follows is a tale of exploration, family strife and the protagonist discovering more about his own history.

I found this an enjoyable enough read, but it didn't grip me as much as I wanted it to. It might be because not that much actually happens. I appreciate the great writing and I liked James as a character, though he made some questionable decisions. However it just didn't grab me, and I finished it feeling like it was nice, but nothing special.
Was this review helpful?
The Editor is a bittersweet novel about a writer working through his relationship with his mother whilst completing his first book with a very famous editor. James is a struggling writer who lives in NYC with his boyfriend. When he gets a call that an editor wants his novel, he doesn't expect it to be Jackie Kennedy—Mrs Onassis—or that this will spark off not only a chance to work on his autobiography novel about his family, but face up to his mother and discover a long-kept secret.

Written in a similar charming style to Rowley's Lily and the Octopus (and with a similarly hapless narrator), this is an engrossing and funny novel that doesn't feel as self-indulgent as some books about writers can. Instead, it focuses on how sometimes you need an outsider to push you towards familial reconciliation, and how an unexpected connection with someone so famous could affect you on a personal level. James is a likeable yet flawed narrator, sometimes self-obsessed and always unable to take compliments, and Rowley's fictionalised version of Jackie Kennedy Onassis near the end of her life is an interesting portrait (particularly as someone who knew nothing about her real publishing career).

The Editor is a charming book that shows how famous figures can be inserted into a fictional narrative in a stylish and purposeful way. Fans of Rowley's first novel will enjoy it, as well as anyone interested in funny yet emotional looks at mother-child relationships.
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars but rounded up.
This book blends fact and fiction by having a real, and very famous, main character. I am not over familiar with the life and times of Mrs Onassis so I can't really speak to the realism of her part in this book but, that aside, it was for me a thoroughly satisfying read. 
We follow James Smale as he struggles to get his book published. He finally manages to sell his work to a publishing house and has a meeting set up with his new editor. When she walks into the room, well, let's just say that his jaw drops and he is a bit awestruck as he recognises her as Jackie O, former First Lady and all the rest of her impressive resume. After getting over the initial shock of her not only reading his book, but enjoying it enough to want it published, the two of them start work. Mostly on the ending. But, as the book is a bit autobiographical, and the MC is Smale's mother, and they are a bit on the estranged side with a tangled history, it all becomes a bit of a soul searching exercise for Smale as, to satisfy Jackie and get the book out, he needs to revisit his past and sort out his present, and indeed relationship with his mother, in order to get that elusive ending.
I do love a wounded character and we get that in James. He came across to me as very real in the things he said and did, both with Jackie and his family, including boyfriend Daniel. There's so much I would like to say about what happens along the way in James' soul searching but I think most of it is best discovered at the right time and with the right information background and I wouldn't like to spoil anything for anyone. I will just say that there are some really wonderful "normal" moments in the book for James and Jackie. Despite him being a lowly first time author and her being the former First Lady and all that comes with that responsibility. The way that the two of them work, with Jackie nudging James into making some decisions in order for them to both be satisfied with the results in his writing. 
Obviously with a book of this genre, I rode the whole gamut of emotions. There were some really funny and touching moments interspersed throughout the narrative which kept the book from getting too dark. The ending was as it should be and, had I had more prior knowledge, I would have expected it but I think on this occasion that my ignorance helped me enable it to be more powerful.
All in all, a thoroughly satisfying read that I devoured in just a couple of sittings, only breaking for sleep and work! I enjoyed it so much that I now have Lily and the Octopus sitting on my TBR, waiting patiently for a reading slot!
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
Was this review helpful?
A fascinating look at the world of writers and editors, and a conjecture of what it might have been like to have the famous Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as one’s editor. I enjoyed the drama of the writer finding his story, and how Mrs Onassis brought it out of him. I felt, however, that the scenes of a sexual nature could have been left out of the book without spoiling the overall narrative.
Was this review helpful?