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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 listeners say about The Last Castle

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    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.

23 people found this helpful

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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??

7 people found this helpful

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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.

23 people found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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Reading of your book

I wish you had chosen someone else to read this wonderful story. At times I found myself falling asleep to your voice! It’s a wonderful story and very,very through any next time I’m in Asheville I want to go to Biltmore!!

1 person found this helpful

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Comprehensive history of Biltmore House

After recently visiting Biltmore House and staying in Biltmore Village, I wanted to listen again to this book. This was my 2nd time listening to it after a few years. The book added more details to my trip and brought the story to life.

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The book has so many hidden stories!

I used to live near the Biltmore Estate and thought I knew everything about it, well this book proved me wrong. There are so many never before told stories of trials and successes of all people involved in the Biltmore Estate and Vanderbilt Family. The audio tour on house grounds is just the tip of the iceberg. Listen to this book before visiting the Estate and even if you have been there many times, you will be in awe.

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Very nice capturing of the gilded age

Came here after re-reading Devil in the White city… Enjoyed the crossover of stories and key figures, well-written and paced , brings my visit to Biltmore from decades ago back to life –narration just a bit lacking , but I come from the voiceover world so probably a little extra critical – overall an enjoyable listen, and very nice capturing of the period.

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The Last Castle

I live in Biltmore Forest so it was fascinating to read the history of the house and George, Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt.

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Mixed reviews of this book

In once since it all seems like a stream of facts. Not sure the author is the one who should have narrated the manuscript. Flat is a good word for me to use to describe listening to this story