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Publisher's Summary

Vanderbilt: The very name is synonymous with the Gilded Age. The family patriarch, "the Commodore," built a fortune that made him the world's richest man by 1877. Yet less than fifty years after his death, no Vanderbilt was counted among the world's richest people. Written by descendant Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, Fortune's Children traces the dramatic and amazingly colorful history of this great American family, from the rise of industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt to the fall of his progeny - wild spendthrifts whose profligacy bankrupted a vast inheritance.

©1989 Arthur T. Vanderbilt II (P)2014 Tantor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
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The Rise and Fall of the Gilded Age

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.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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One of my favorites!

Where does Fortune's Children rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I have really enjoyed listening to this book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Too many characters to pick one.

What about Patrick Lawlor’s performance did you like?

excellent

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

very enjoyable

Any additional comments?

If you like the subject, this is a great book!

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great listen for a road trip.

Wish Patrick Lawlor would study pronunciation before narrating. "Blen-hyme"?? Like fingernails on a chalkboard! Otherwise an interesting story about the Gilded Age and what followed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • donna
  • PENSACOLA, FL, US
  • 11-15-15

Enjoyable

Would you listen to Fortune's Children again? Why?

Really enjoyed hearing about the making and losing of a great American fortune. Interesting and well-researched.

Which character – as performed by Patrick Lawlor – was your favorite?

Alva Vandeebilt Belmont.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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EXCELLENT, HONEST ACCOUNT

If you could sum up Fortune's Children in three words, what would they be?

My headline sums it up along with a third description: EXCELLENT, HONEST, WELL-RESEARCHED. That's FOUR words but you get my drift!

Who was your favorite character and why?

There were way too many characters to pick a favorite. However, if I have to choose, it would be the author, Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, for writing such an amazing history of his ancestors. He didn't pull any punches and remained totally unbiased. It's easier to name my LEAST favorite person: the family patriarch, Cornelius Vanderbilt, a crude, ignorant, penny-pinching and spiteful man.

What does Patrick Lawlor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Patrick Lawlor has the perfect non-regional white boy voice to narrate the history of a uniquely American creation: gilded age robber barons.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, indeed. I almost did but one MUST eat!

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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interesting

Any additional comments?

great story, very well written I find that when you are listening to historical novels like this it is easy to get the characters confused but that was not the case with this book, it was easy to listen to and it kept my attention

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The history of the Vanderbilt's in a nutshell

Would you listen to Fortune's Children again? Why?

Absolutely! There's so much information that it almost needs a 2nd time around

Any additional comments?

We were leaving on a trip for North Carolina and I wanted to know some background information before we toured the Biltmore - and boy, does this book give you everything you need to know. In the end it was sad to see the wealth of this family deminished by pure greed and spending. Virtually nothing is left of this mass fortune.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

informative... and Sad

narrated with many voices as the letters from each generation are read. a deep look into the psychology of the gilded age and the sad fall from grace that became of the commodore 's decendents. don't look for a sugar coated glossing of rich life here as both the highs and lows are explored.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great overview of the Vanderbilt's family history

This is the most complete story I have heard of the Vanderbilts. I found the history of Alva Belmont the most interesting part. I also loved learning about the many mansions the families built.

There were a only a few discrepancies from other sources that I've found questionable.
- George Washington Vanderbilt died of a heart attack at Biltmore. Whereas, I believed that he died of complications following an appendectomy in his Washington DC home.
- I think the reader's were misguided that the Biltmore estate had fallen out of the Vanderbilt's hands by being recognized as a national historic landmark. In fact, is still owned by George Vanderbilt's decedents.
- Winston Churchill was hit by a car following a dinner at Grace Vanderbilt's home. Whereas, I had learned that his accident occurred before he arrived for dinner.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.

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A vast amount of information

Loved it. A sad ending of an era of history. It would have been exciting in some aspects to witness.