Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt
The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age
By Amanda MacKenzie Stuart
Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780060938253, 579pp.
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $17.99*
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When Consuelo Vanderbilt's grandfather died, he was the richest man in America. Her father soon started to spend the family fortune, enthusiastically supported by Consuelo's mother, Alva, who was determined to take the family to the top of New York society--forcing a heartbroken Consuelo into a marriage she did not want with the underfunded Duke of Marlborough. But the story of Consuelo and Alva is more than a tale of enterprising social ambition, Gilded Age glamour, and the emptiness of wealth. It is a fascinating account of two extraordinary women who struggled to break free from the world into which they were born--a world of materialistic concerns and shallow elitism in which females were voiceless and powerless--and of their lifelong dedication to noble and dangerous causes and the battle for women's rights.
“Riveting . . . [An] excellent biography . . . Mackenzie Stuart narrates with an elegance equal to her subject’s.”
-Francine du Plessix Gray, New York Times Book Review
“Impeccably researched . . . Mackenzie Stuart’s history marshals an impressive trove of primary documents.”
-The New Yorker
“Mackenzie Stuart has skillfully integrated a great deal of research... and she gives a rich sense of both women.”
-Washington Post Book World
“[A] fascinating dual biography.”
“A saga of transatlantic maneuvers worthy of Henry James or Edith Wharton.”
“Book lovers, Anglophiles and social historians alike will find much to please them in this fine, well-researched biography.”
“[A] deftly contextualized account.”
“An intimate look at two women whose lives reveal changing social patterns. Just fascinating.”
“Skilfully and sympathetically told. . . . Brilliant.”
-Antonia Fraser, The Times (London)
“A riveting story... Alva and Consuelo emerge as unique and fascinating characters... A very entertaining read.”
“Astute. . . . A lively narrative. . . . Written with impressive verve and confidence.”
“Compellingly readable… [Mackenzie Stuart] writes... with the eye of an accomplished historian and with profound sympathy for the central figures.”
“Fascinating... A thoughtful portrait of two strong, well-educated women who were more than the measure of their extreme wealth.”
“highly readable, well constructed, novelish biography…a confident and compelling book.”