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Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt Paperback – Dec 26 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (Dec 26 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062224069
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062224064
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #174,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
found it very interesting on how much very rich people torture each other, and how they threw away so much money in such a short time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a saga. A fascinating look at the super rich. A family tree would have been a huge help.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa0e455f4) out of 5 stars 358 reviews
187 of 190 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0efaed0) out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read Jan. 17 2014
By Mike - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I almost never buy paper copies of books, but after reading this on my Kindle I went and purchased this in physical form to give out to friends.

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.
94 of 100 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0effbac) out of 5 stars "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." April 27 2013
By Amelia Gremelspacher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Commodore" Vanderbilt started poor, but ended life as the wealthiest man in the world. The author is one of his descendants, and notes that fifty years after his death, none of his descendants were rated in the nation's richest men. But starting with the Commodore", the family did live like American royalty. In fact it is just this comparison that was intended by by this eminent family of the Gilded Age. This book is replete with details of the homes and furnishings of a family who felt their obligation was to set the standard as the head of wealthy society.

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.
83 of 89 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa12fd4e0) out of 5 stars A Real Page Turner June 23 2013
By Padanelle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book far exceeded my expectations. It reads like a novel, but is so well anecdoted, the notes for each chapter are also must reads. It is very well researched, and gives a wonderful picture of the Vanderbilts and life of the priviledged during the Gilded Age in NYC.

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!!
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0ecfbac) out of 5 stars Fortune's Children Oct. 14 2013
By Julia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent book, keeps you wanting to read more and it gives it to you. This book tells of the gaining of the great wealth by Commodore Vanderbilt and what each one of his children and subsequent generations did with his money after his death, until, finally all was spent and there were no more Vanderbilt millionaires. I also enjoyed hearing about the "Gilded Age,"the mansions in Newport, R.I., where the "summer" cottages of the rich were. This book will not disappoint.
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0ec97f8) out of 5 stars Good book, minor Kindle glitches Jan. 25 2014
By Judith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Here we are given an overview of the rise and fall of the Vanderbilt family from the Commodore, who built the family fortune to the decline of the family throughout the first half of the twentieth century. The book concentrates on the eccentric characters in the family--and there were a lot of them. It's mostly a sad story, because not many of the family were ever happy or content for long. In addition to the well known excessive spending on garish homes and yachts that had to be ever grander to outdo other family members, there were unfortunate marriages that were more like mergers than love stories. There were divorces, infidelities, parents pitted against children to either push the child into a marriage or to prevent a marriage to a fortune hunter. The brothers in each generation were often rivals, trying to become the favored one who would inherit the largest chunk of the money. The women had a strange game of trying to be top dog so that they could be THE Mrs. Vanderbilt, rather than merely A Mrs. Vanderbilt. There also were an unusual number of young family members who died in accidents or from sudden illnesses. It was a fascinating story, and I recommend the book.

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.