avoiding road rage one book at a time...
Hats off to Arthur Vanderbilt II for combing through the family archive and putting this rich history down in one, cohesive place – it must have been fantastically challenging.
The book starts off with the life story of the family patriarch, Cornelius, who single-handedly built his empire. He dropped out of school at 11 and at 16, with a $100 loan from his mother, he bought his first boat. He outwitted, out worked and intimidated his competition. He was a domineering and sadistic father of 13. He disowned his daughters who married (and no longer carried the family name) and berated his sons relentlessly.
The story continues by developing the history and life of each of the most prominent family members: the rivalry to be crowned THE Mrs. Vanderbilt, the races to win the inheritance by each succeeding generation. Some family members were shrewd and had significant inheritances to pass on, while others spent money with gross frivolity, bankrupting some branches of this wild tree.
Even with ALL of these unique and very different characters, the story is told coherently. It is not difficult to follow and figure out how each person is related, as Vanderbilt lays out this story logically, generation to generation.
I found the story of Gloria Vanderbilt's childhood so fascinating, I purchased her autobiography to get her side of her story. She was fiercely manipulated as a child. Her alcoholic, gambling, reckless father was dead before she was two, leaving her with a social-climbing 20 year old mother who was manipulated by the Vanderbilts (specifically Gertrude) to gain control Gloria and her trust. It is unclear if it was truly in Gloria’s best interest, which is why I want to dive further into this subject.
This is a great book - a thorough history of a very important part of America’s Gilded Age.
I absolutely loved everything about this book, including Janis's awesome and honest narration. She uses her stunning voice to sing the listener in to each new life chapter. Her words paint pictures, her voice sounds heavenly. GREAT story of a hard-working optimist.