Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II (1991)

Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of VanderbiltFortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I suspect that in 100 years, they will refer to the time in which we live as the Second Gilded Age (if Donald Trump is elected, he can be a stand in for those Gilded Age presidents of yore, Grant and his bearded kith; perhaps these new Gilded Age presidents will be known for their cosmetic surgery or interesting hair styles instead of Victorian manly beards).

Fortune's Fall is a tale of the First Gilded Age, from the point of view of the most famous, the richest and the grandiosely gilded (and gross) family of them all, the Vanderbilts. I say "tale" because part of this nonfiction book read like a the very best potboiler or soap opera. If all this weren't true, then you'd think it was a melodrama, with all the family feuds, divorces, affairs, abandoned children, hints of lesbian sex - it's like Falcon Crest or Dallas with railroads instead of vinyards or oil, and all true (well, Arthur T. Vanderbilt's version of the truth, and who are we to question him, with a last name like that?). Vanderbilt traces the rise and fall of this golden family, from the beginnings to the bitter, income and inheritance tax ridden end.

The only thing missing from this rendition of the Gilded Age are politicians; the Vanderbilts didn't really go for politics (not like their far less rich neighbors, the Roosevelts). We already know when the write Fortune's Children: the Fall of the House of Trump, politics will have a chapter all to itself.

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This stops in 1991; I bet a new edition would include a whole chapter on Andersen Cooper; the house may have fallen, but the foundation is still there.

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