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Publisher's Summary

Alexandra Aldrich, a direct descendant of the famous Astor dynasty, grew up in the servants' quarters of Rokeby, the 43-room Hudson Valley mansion built by her ancestors. Her childhood was one of bohemian neglect and real privation. But it was fairly stable until the summer of her tenth year, when her father took up with an alluring interloper, Giselle.

Alexandra idolized her father, Rokeby's charismatic lord of misrule, who had attended elite private schools as a child but inherited only landed property, not money. To him, she says, "poverty was amusing, a delightful challenge." All of the family's resources - emotional and financial - went to the maintenance of the Astor house and legacy. If the family had sold the house and its 450 acres, they all would have been able to live comfortably. Instead, Alexandra and her parents lived precariously in the grand house, scavenging for the next meal.

Her mother, an icy Polish artist, disguised her maternal indifference by extolling the virtues of independence. Relatives preyed on Alexandra's low status in the household. Once her father got involved with Giselle, Alexandra's only stalwart was her affectionate grandmother (whose great-great-grandfather, Nicholas Fish, was a close friend of Alexander Hamilton's and an executor of his estate). Grandma Claire held Alexandra's life together with family dinner parties, rides to violin lessons, and snacks after school. But as she grew progressively more debilitated by alcohol, she soon became too frail to provide a safe haven for her granddaughter.

Determined to impose order on her anarchic world and prove her worth, Alexandra awoke promptly at six-thirty each morning, adhering to a strict personal regimen of exercise, grooming, and intensive violin practice. With money borrowed from the owner of the local gas station, she did the grocery shopping, occasionally setting aside four dollars to buy herself clean white socks. The betrayal of her father's flagrant affair, however, ignited a series of familial feuds that shook her hard-won stability and set her on a path toward escaping the Astor legacy.

Reaching back to the Gilded Age, when that legacy first began to come undone, Alexandra has written an unflinching, mordantly funny account of neglect and class anxiety amid the ruins of a once prominent family. More than an insider's look at a decaying American institution, The Astor Orphan is the debut of a thrilling new voice able to render the secret pains and glories of childhood afresh.

©2013 Alexandra Aldrich (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers

What listeners say about The Astor Orphan

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Very Interesting

Where does The Astor Orphan rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's a strong 6. It was a fun listen. I didn't have to focus on it. I could fold laundry and cook while I listened, which I liked. There are some great characters and a good amount of things happen during the story.

Which character – as performed by Tavia Gilbert – was your favorite?

Grandma Clair. He had a great voice. So did the mother. Fun Polish accent.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

It had a nice ending. The ending really pulled it all together and left it in a good place.

Any additional comments?

I want to say the reader, Ms. Gilbert, sometimes seemed slightly over-the-top with her enunciation. It was sometimes slightly distracting. However, it's possible she was just playing a character, so I'm going to give her a pass on that. And I've listened to clips from a few other books and she's less extreme. She has a great voice. I enjoyed her performance.

31 people found this helpful

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The other Astor’s

This book offered amazing first hand insight into the decaying dynasty that once held immense power. This side of the Astor family has been scarcely documented and it was wonderful to get such an intimate view of a dying aristocracy.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

astor orphans good

loved it. very entertaining and kept my interest. i thought it endedtoo soon. like to have about her boarding school yrs.

20 people found this helpful

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Surprising

Turns out that being raised in a mansion isn't all it's cracked up onto be.

15 people found this helpful

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Beautifully Crafted Memoir

This was an amazing story and very well written. I loved every detail and description.

13 people found this helpful

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The Disappointing Orphan

Great premise, but no real story line. A collection of disparate memories that never had a plan as to where to go.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Disappointing

I normally love memoirs and this one has an interesting premise. However, there is very little insight or growth in the main character and her self awareness is limited. We feel sorry for her but she is not overly likable. I found the narrator annoying and the ending completely unsatisfying. It’s like the story just stops mid stream and we are left hanging.

1 person found this helpful

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very good

I really did enjoy this audiobook. Not really about an orphan, but a girl that really felt like one. Living in a rich background but because her parents didn't live up to what his mother expected they lived poorly in the back of the house. She played beautiful music pieces on her violin. That her grandmother paid for classes.

1 person found this helpful

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Not for me

While the premise sounded interesting, the execution of the story didn’t work for me. It never drew me in and I was frequently bored; the story may have been interesting if told differently. This felt disjointed to me.

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Unsatisfying ending to a frustrating story

The story told in this book is tragic, certainly. The decline of the Astor family and fortune means the main character is raised in hunger and squalor, amidst the adults of the family warring with each other about who is worthy of the few remaining assets left to the family and refusing to sell the mansion and grounds which could finance the next generation. Neither of her parents work, one clearly receding into depression while the other appears to have an illicit affair and child. Most of the happenings aren’t particularly terrible, and there are certainly a few bright or interesting spots in the tale, but it generally comes off as whiny and generates little sympathy or empathy in the reader/listener. I persisted, hoping for some sort of happy ending or at least uplifting twist as the child ages. Instead, the memoir ends abruptly as she goes off to boarding school. While she feels abandoned by everyone, she is not actually orphaned. I wish I had also abandoned the book, as it added nothing to my life and was generally depressing and frustrating to listen to. The narrator’s whiny childish tone is spot on, but unpleasant. If you want to read a memoir of bygone glamour, this is NOT it.