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Publisher's Summary

From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Girls of Atomic City comes the fascinating true story behind the magnificent Gilded Age mansion Biltmore - the largest, grandest residence ever built in the United States.

Orphaned at a young age, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser claimed lineage from one of New York's best known families. She grew up in Newport and Paris, and her engagement and marriage to George Vanderbilt was one of the most watched events of Gilded Age society. But none of this prepared her to be mistress of Biltmore House.

Before their marriage, the wealthy and bookish Vanderbilt had dedicated his life to creating a spectacular European-style estate on 125,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness. He summoned the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to tame the grounds, collaborated with celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to build a 175,000-square-foot chateau, filled it with priceless art and antiques, and erected a charming village beyond the gates. Newlywed Edith was now mistress of an estate nearly three times the size of Washington, DC and benefactress of the village and surrounding rural area. When fortunes shifted and changing times threatened her family, her home, and her community, it was up to Edith to save Biltmore - and secure the future of the region and her husband's legacy.

The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. The Last Castle is the unique American story of how the largest house in America flourished, faltered, and ultimately endured to this day.

©2017 Denise Kiernan (P)2017 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Very factual

I live near the Biltmore Estate and it truly is amazing!!! This book was very informative but I have to say it was painfully obvious the author/narrator is not trained to perform/read audiobooks. Her tone, intonation and “performance” totally hampered this story. This is not nearly the quality we expect from audible. My only thought is the author made it a requirement that she be the narrator. The book is marketed as a story but it was read like a textbook.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

So dissappointed. Read The Girls of Atomic City...

...instead. Kiernan wrote that and it was absolutely fascinating. Not this one. It's rare that I give any nonfiction I listen to less than three stars--most gets a 4 with the occasional 5. Really, this felt like one star to me and the only reason I'm giving it 2 is decent writing, a ton of information imparted, and the amount of research Kiernan must have done. And it's probably better in print than in audio.

I downloaded this because Kiernan wrote it. I skimmed the synopsis, which seemed interesting. A month later, I listened. 3 chapters in I wondered who and what the book was about. Hundreds of names had already been mentioned and I couldn't keep track of who they were and if they were important to the story.

Like another book I listened to recently, I slept through a couple hours total of the book, did not rewind and listened to part of it on 1.5 speed, never a good sign.

Bottom line issue: With The Girls of Atomic City, she had first person accounts to draw from, people she interviewed. She didn't with this book. While there are some personal letters quoted, it's not enough to flesh out ANY of the zillion characters so it reads like a stream of hundreds of facts with names attached, few of which I will remember.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Good story. Needs new narrator.

Narration made me wince on so many occassions I was unable to finish listening. American accent with absolutely no ability to pronoune or enunciate French/foreign words. Isnt there an equivalent of a book editor for audio? Did someone not listen to this before releasing??

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Anne
  • Durham, NC
  • 05-06-18

Interesting story, awful prose, terrible narration

The story of the creation of Biltmore and its industries is interesting and worthy of a book. Having no reason to doubt any of the information in this title, I accept that the facts in it are correct. However, the narrator's grating voice, wooden tone and poor pronunciation of French combined with her tortuously mannered prose and frequently unfounded conclusions to elicit several groans an hour from me as I listened. This may sound unkind. I do not mean to be so. But this production is so far below the standard I've come to expect from Audible that it is only fair to note. I know that Audible was not responsible for the style of writing (and perhaps a sense that the story of Biltmore needed to be told overruled any reservations on that point) but some courageous soul in audio production should have been brutally honest with the author that she would do no good to her book by reading it aloud herself.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting, factual

The facts are important if I were to be a Biltmore guide. For me, not a page turner. I would recommend it with reservation to someone who will visit this beautiful home and likes statistics

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great information

Does a great job of telling biltmore’s story. I read in other reviews about not liking the performance, but I don’t agree. The performance was great, easy to listen to. Overall really really loved it. Loved how so much history is woven through the story.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Like listening to someone read bullet points

Lesson learned, read the reviews first. The reader (happens to be the author) was painful to listen to. I really, really tried, but just could not get through it. I couldn't keep track of who she was talking about, let alone the story line itself. Also disappointing I couldn't return the book. I had read The Girls of Atomic City and loved it. Please, Denise, don't read any more! Stick to writing!

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Like listening to someone describing paint drying

Having just visited the Biltmore Estate, I was excited to get this book, knowing I’d be able to better picture the setting, people and events, but this has ended up being a book I could barely crawl through. The reader is so flat and monotonous that I found myself turning it off after about half a chapter and go to reading mode, but even that didn’t help. This book may be well researched, but it portrays none of the excitement and glamour of the age. Basically it’s boy inherits money, never works; builds a huge house, never finishes it; marries a nice girl, has a child, travels a lot, spends more money, fortune depleted, sells off some land, dies. There is no real sense of what the people were like.
Very disappointed.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Magical Biltmore & Inspiring Vanderbilt’s

My first encounter with Biltmore House was on trip with my grandmother. That was over 50 years ago and I’m still in love with this incredible home. I had no idea how kind and generous Mr & Mrs George Vanderbilt we’re. This book captures stories to warm the heart and call out our better nature.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

As Awe-inspiring As the Biltmore House Itself

I live in Asheville and can see the house every day on the way home from work. I drive down Hendersonville Rd through the development of Biltmore Forest. I thought this book was well researched and not dry in the details. The author's reading was captivating. my questions about what happened to George and Edith's daughter were finally answered. If you want more of the back story to the house and family, you will want to read this book!