Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt Paperback – Dec 26 2012
|New from||Used from|
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
From the Back Cover
Vanderbilt: the very name signifies wealth. The family patriarch, "the Commodore," built up a fortune that made him the world's richest man by 1877. Yet, less than fifty years after the Commodore's death, one of his direct descendants died penniless, and no Vanderbilt was counted among the world's richest people. Fortune's Children tells the dramatic story of all the amazingly colorful spenders who dissipated such a vast inheritance.
About the Author
Arthur T. Vanderbilt II is the author of many books, among them Changing Law, a biography of his grandfather Arthur T. Vanderbilt, which won the American Bar Association's Scribes Award. He practices law in New Jersey.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I had just got done reading an extremely dry, very boring, biography of Commodore Vanderbilt. I frankly do not know why I tortured myself with finishing it. However, Fortune's Children, was a breath of fresh air after that. It is anything but boring and dry.
This book breathes life into a fascinating sociological part of American history: the Gilded Age. Prior to reading this book, I really did not have an appreciation for this time in history. The extravagance and the opulence (before income tax existed!) that this book details is fascinating. The book delivers its message without being gossipy, but it also does not bore with dry and academic droll. The author has a wonderful grasp on his style, and walks the line between personal family history and historical account with wonderfully professional ability. At no point did I feel like I was reading a gossip tabloid (I am currently reading a bio by another author that feels that way and it feels cheap and sultry).
In summary the book was extremely well written, captured my attention on every single page, and was one of my most favorite historical bio books of all time.
Not everything in the family was their fortune. Some of the most colorful characters one might encounter are introduced in this book. Two of the most imposing were the Commodore's daughters in law. Alva and Alice vied with each other to surpass in wretched excess. And for the most part, Americans bought into their right to do so. Like a daily written version of Dynasty, their possessions and exploits decorated the front pages of the papers. Few of its denizens were indeed happy with each other or their mates. The undoubtable Ava even bucked a major taboo and divorced her husband. This book is a fascinating look into one of the founding families of the upwardly mobile. It makes for interesting reading that maintains a flowing prose that is clear and enjoyable in form.
My only negative is that I felt the book should have included a lineage chart, to follow who was descended from who, but I solved this by downloading it from Wikipedia.
A major focus of the book was on the Commodore's 2 grandchildren - Cornelius II and William K and their children. The story bounced back and forth among them, which is why I felt the need for the lineage chart. I would have preferred if it was laid out one family line at a time.
But that did not take away in any way from my overall enjoyment of the book. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!
A few reviewers mentioned problems with the Kindle version needing editing. This is true. For some reason, the text did not translate over to the ebook totally correctly. There are weird problems with certain words being misspelled. For instance, the word "your" is often written as "tour." However, this does not happen all that often, and I didn't have a problem understanding what the author meant to write. Still, in an ebook from a major publisher with a relatively high price for a Kindle book, this kind of sloppiness is not acceptable. Still, I didn't want to take away from the author's rating on this book, so I didn't deduct any stars for the ebook glitch.
A few things would have made the book a little better. I wished for a family tree chart to keep everybody and their relationships to others in the family straight. The Vanderbilts kept using the same names over and over. The author did make quite an effort to differenuate this Corneilus from that Corneulus, but it was still confusing at times. Also, I wish he had not ended the book without talking about later generations of the family. What is the current generation up to? I guess it is the sign of a good book, when the reader wants to know more.
I was impressed with the way the author just presented the facts, and did not take sides in conflicts. For instance, in the custody trial for Little Gloria, it's up to the reader to decide for him or herself whether she belonged with her mother or her aunt. He also does not play amateur psychologist, trying to assign motives and feelings to people's actions. One thing that I did question however, was including excerpts from Gertrude's teenage diary to try to paint her as a rebellious daughter who actually hated her mother. What teenager has not at one time or another said that s/he hated his/her mother in a fit of teen angst.
Of course, many of the Vanderbilts chose to live in a dramatic, larger than life fashion, so the author does have quite a lot of very interesting material, and he does take full advantage of it in this very interesting book.