The Loveliest Woman in America
The Loveliest Woman in America
A Tragic Actress, Her Lost Diaries, and Her Granddaughter's Search for Home
By Bibi Gaston
William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780060857707, 352pp.
Publication Date: June 1, 2008
In 1927, at the age of twenty-three, Rosamond Pinchot was hailed as "The Loveliest Woman in America." At thirty-three, in a sudden, shocking, and highly public act, Rosamond took her own life, setting in motion generations of confusion in the family she left behind.
Nearly seventy years after her demise, her granddaughter Bibi received a box of more than 1,500 pages of Rosamond's diaries and embarked on a seven-year journey to make sense of the silence that surrounded Rosamond's death and to discover the grandmother she never knew. An acclaimed beauty, actress, socialite, and outdoorswoman, Rosamond became the key to Bibi's understanding of her enigmatic and adventurous father, her glamorous but painfully divided family, and herself.
Through the silent labyrinth of a brilliant but troubled family, Bibi pieced together Rosamond's life storyher magical embrace of nature, her love for two compelling but difficult men, and her circle of "on tops," intimates, and mentors, including Elizabeth Arden, Eleanor Roosevelt, George Cukor, and David O. Selznick. Bibi also discovered the tragic legacy of the women in her family, including Rosamond's cousin Edie Sedgwick and her half sister, Mary Pinchot Meyer, whose murder in 1964 has never been solved.
As if looking in a mirror, Bibi found parts of herself in the complex, tragic, yet beautiful story of the high-spirited Rosamond Pinchot and designed a mission at midlife: to outlive the often difficult, but exuberant and passionate, lives of her ancestors.
One of the more intriguing footnotes in American theatrical lore has always been the mysterious suicide ... of Rosamond Pinchot during the tryout of Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town’....Who was she? What were the circumstances of her death? ....A beautifully written saga worthy of Edith Wharton’s ‘House of Mirth.’
-John Guare, playwright Six Degrees of Separation
...a granddaughter’s search through familial silence for the grandmother, a beautiful and troubled actress, who committed suicide... leaving two young sons and a powerful mystery....wonderfully structured... a compelling story with characters of such life and particularity, they jump off the page. . . .A real page turner
-Susan Shreve, author of A STUDENT OF LIVING THINGS and WARM SPRINGS
“….Uncovers a family history long obscured by secrets and lies…functions well as a window into a largely vanished social and cultural structure. Heartfelt and accomplished…”
The discovery of her grandmother’s diaries has taken Gaston on a journey not only of family and home but also of celebrity, politics, death, betrayal, and, eventually, understanding and hope.
“…a Dreiserian treatise on the corrosive use uses of money and class in America and how self-destructive patterns of behavior are often handed down in families…Bibi Gaston does a remarkable job piecing together this dramatic family history….”
Bibi Gaston’s hard-to-put down narrative mixes a Harvard Business School Case Study of American upper-class family dysfunction and tragedy, with entertainment history, with the most significant ingredient of all -- the healing of the scars on her own heart. The whole business is a miracle.
-Tappan Wilder, Literary Executor
A story for all women who strive and struggle to lead meaningful and purposeful lives.... the author weaves her grandmother Rosamond Pinchot’s connection to nature... through the generations of a family whose legacy of service to the environment are the DNA of today’s conservation efforts.”
-Sara Cedar Miller, Central Park Historian and Park Photographer
…a fascinating memoir... Her writing is deft and sure. …. poetic, wry, humorous and, above all, spoken with the voice of truth and compassion. With “The Loveliest Woman in America,” she gives readers the topography of the heart of a family, and in it we find pieces of ourselves.”
-Bangor Daily News
...a fascinating memoir of an American family from a famous actress and beauty in the early 20th century to her granddaughter....a captivating story of 2 women and the man they share-son to one and father to the other. Bibi’s voyage of discovery will enlighten and uplift you
-Ron McLarty, Author of THE MEMORY OF RUNNING and TRAVELER