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Book Review No. 1: Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon

When I saw Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family on Amazon last year, I knew from the very start that I had to get it. I bought the hardcover cover and read it in just two days. The book is about the life of Brooke Astor, the wife of multimillionaire and heir to the vast Astor fortune, Vincent Astor, whose uncle John Jacob Astor, drowned together with the most famous ship in the world, The Titanic. When her husband died, she inherited a famous name and hundreds of millions worth of assets and the Vincent Astor Foundation.

She was the grande dame of New York’s high society, a philanthropist, a patroness of the arts, a fixture in the American, European, and international social circuit, and has used her fame and fortune aggressively to advance her social and charitable causes. Her name elicited fear and respect — a name that conjures up images of the Gilded Age–palatial summer cottages in Newport, masquerade parties, European crowned heads and titled aristocrats hobnobbing with American heiresses and billionaire tycoons, old money and parvenus socializing and mingling away at lavish dinner parties and debutante balls all throughout the night.Mrs. Astor

In this beautifully written and thoroughly researched biography, Meryl Gordon tells us the story of one of the most influential philanthropists in New York, who later in life until her last years was caught in the middle of the scandal of the century, a family feud between her only son Marshall, her society friends, and  her grandchildren. A story which the tabloids and the papers ate up and reported in their front pages and headlines. While what has been dubbed as “The Battle of The Blue Bloods” by the publications, was ensuing, she was dying in her Park Avenue apartment “in squalor,” explained one of her grandsons after visiting her. Shocked by the living conditions of her grandmother, he decided to press charges against his own, estranged father, Brooke’s only son–who had control over the fortune of his mother–for embezzlement. Unbeknownst to the bedridden and frail Brooke, her only son and grandsons, and their friends took sides and engaged in the aristocratic war of “He said, She said” among New York’s elite.

Exciting, hilarious, heartbreaking, and oftentimes tragic, this book about a woman who once said, “If you have dogs and books, you will never get bored,” is a delicious read. Filled with overlapping stories about the great names of the century like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Kissinger, Reagan, and dela Renta,  Mrs.Astor Regrets is a touching epic about love, family, betrayal, and friendship, and the destructive powers of the love for money, and greed. A gem — a nonfiction that reads like fiction.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

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