GREEK FIRE reviewed on Amazon.com

Nicholas Gage's meticulously documented and consistently absorbing account chronicles the stormy love affair between Maria Callas (1923-77) and Aristotle Onassis (1906-75). Gage sees the soprano who reinvented the art of opera and the tycoon who transformed the shipping industry as kindred spirits, drawn into romance by a deep connection to their Greek origins and a shared sense that, despite all they had achieved, something was missing. They found that absent element in a once-in-a-lifetime passion, which Onassis betrayed by marrying Jacqueline Kennedy in 1968. Gage appears to share the view of the tycoon's Greek coterie, who viewed this marriage as an act of hubris that inevitably led to financial and personal reversals which embittered Onassis in his final years. But he doesn't blame the tycoon for Callas's decline, pointing out that by the time they met, she was already experiencing severe vocal problems and was eager for respite from her taxing performance commitments. In any case, her career and his business dealings take a back seat here to Gage's evocative portrait of his subjects' outsized personalities and the jet-set society in the gaudy postwar years. Some of the new information is revelatory, particularly Gage's persuasive contention that Callas bore Onassis a son who died hours after his birth in 1960. At other times his investigative-journalist approach seems too weighty for this highly personal story of love, rage, and big, big egos. Fortunately, these lapses don't seriously mar a text distinguished by smooth prose, the seamless interweaving of several narrative strands, and a warm sympathy for its genuinely tragic protagonists. --Wendy Smith

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