Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon

Publication Date: October 22, 2009

Brooke Astor lived a rich and adventurous life. Her twilight years should have been comfortable and uneventful. Instead as Alzheimer’s descended, the Centenarian was living under the guardianship of her son, Anthony Marshall, and living in squalor. Her worried grandson approached her dear friends, Annette de la Renta and David Rockefeller for advice and what transpired in the aftermath of that meeting was more than any of them could have imagined. 

 

Let me address the most obvious problem first; the book ends with a statement that as of the writing of the work, the trial goes on. Readers are left to head to Google to find out what happened to Anthony Marshall, who did not share longevity with his mother. Meryl Gordon is a well respected journalist who interviewed Ambassador Marshall prior to the intervention of her friends to wrest guardianship from him. She had an objective look at the man and his second wife, Charlene, that laid parallel with the impressions of her interviewees.

As with the previously reviewed book by Gordon Phantom of Fifth Avenue, Gordon starts with the early life of Brooke Russell and her marriage as a very young person to alleged abusive womanizer, John Dryden Kuser. She considered her next husband, Charles Henry Marshall with whom she produced only child, Anthony Marshall, the love of her life. After Marshall’s death she quickly married Vincent Astor and though it was a brief marriage ending in his death, it seems to have been a mutually pleasant arrangement. Once Astor was gone, Brooke was a 57 year old widow with no desire to marry again and an ever evolving and active social life with a few trusted friends and retainers. Local folks may be interested to know that one of her trusted friends was Freddy Melhado whose first wife was Lydia Buhl was a great-great-granddaughter of Hiram Walker. I’m going to be honest here and say that the first part of the book was reasonably dry. Brooke Astor was a colourful woman but that came mostly from her own account which seemed perhaps whitewashed in reflected memory.

Having met Ambassador Marshall, Gordon seems convinced that he did not consider the machinations that led to his mother’s redirected wealth to be against her interest. Yes, his acquisition of a second wife was coated in controversy and we hear in Brooke’s own words that she didn’t like the woman, but Ambassador Marshall reads as having been misguided while Charlene was mercenary. Her controlling tendency in the interview with Gordon is a good indicator and personality.  Gordon titillates with a reporting of the take of the tabloids but overall her writing style is direct and from a objective standpoint. I found it to be a cautionary tales for people who are caretakers to not stretch the rules whether the motivation is greed or just what they think they can set right that their loved one might regret in reflection of life. David, my now 72 year old father, had a different perspective. He felt that the manipulation of the son and daughter in law were purely motivated by a criminal level of greed. They did, after all, take heirlooms rightly belonging to the Astor family from whom Anthony Marshall was not a descendant. He also felt that once accused, the Marshalls made some really dumb decisions in both legal counsel and PR which complicated the way that the case was viewed.

The bottom line is that Mrs. Astor Regrets is an interesting read that doesn’t have the payoff ending one might expect though the result can easily be found in a Google search. Mrs. Astor lived to the ripe old age of 105 with the end surrounded by the people she most loved and trusted. If you’re looking for a really interesting and different kind of legal story, pick up Mrs. Astor Regrets today.

 

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The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon

Publication Date: May 27, 2014

Huguette Clark, born near the beginning of the 20th century, was the daughter of the nation’s second richest man and grew up in luxury. She was a lively and social philantropist who relatives one day realized had become gradually more distant until she virtually disappeared. What happened to this once vibrant personality?

 

 

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark is an infuriating read. It is a dispassionate account of this life of Huguette Clark and what happened to her once she went into isolation written by journalist, Meryl Gordon. What is infuriating about the book is the connection that Gordon builds between her subject and reader and then the revelation that she was basically a tool for gain in her latter years outlined in objective fashion that could not make clearer the motivations of the century old woman’s carers. 

Before reading The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark, I had not heard of the lively Senator from Montana, William A. Clark. He and his first wife, Katherine, had seven children before her death in 1893. After Katherine’s death, William married his teenaged ward, Anna, with whom he had two children, the youngest of which was Huguette. Gordon’s account of Clark’s early life and the lives of her parents are through and when she embarks on the latter chapters of Clark’s life relies on interviews with key players who seem to have been surprisingly open with the journalist along with court documents that chronicled the struggle between the heiress’ family and the people paid to care for her. Clark lays out in a linear fashion the relationship of Huguette and her parents, the loss of her older, adored sibling and her relationship with her remaining and much older half-siblings with whom she was distant and cordial. Huguette’s mother, by all accounts, was a colorful woman who reveled in her daughter and indulged her while making clear that she was in this life on her own. A brief marriage that went bad cut through the middle of Huguette’s isolated existence.

The sign of a really good book was when the back cover is closed, the reader heads to Amazon and buys everything the author has written and that is truly what happened in this case. The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark is confounding. Huguette’s relatives had a relationship of routine and it took them coming together to realize that no one had heard from her. How she wound up in the hands of people who seem to have had genuine affection for her but were eager to use her to their advantage isn’t a perplexing mystery. She was grateful for their attention. The e-mails that flew between the hospital higher ups and their fundraising department is beyond shameful. Huguette may have preferred living in the hospital with her precious nurse and seemed quite aware that the all hour dedication she gained was contingent on making the woman very wealthy.

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark is really a story of morality. People knew what was going on with Huguette and her carers and looked the other way. Did they believe the woman was better off or did they look for their own payday? You make the call. I will tell you that I was furious when I finished reading this book. I become so engaged with Huguette and her story and the steps that led her to be the woman who would pay – and pay dearly – for company was just heart breaking. The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark is a must read. Seriously, pick it up today.

Buy The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon on Amazon U.S. Amazon U.K. Amazon CA

 

 

A Spy for the Union: The Life and Execution of Timothy Webster by Corey Recko

Publication Date: September 6, 2013

A Spy for the Union: The Life and Execution of Timothy Webster by Corey Recko A Spy for the Union by Corey Recko is the story of the New York Police Officer turned Pinkerton Detective turned spy for the Union forces, Timothy Webster. As a Pinkerton, he was a member of a team that uncovered a plot in 1861 to kill then President, Abraham Lincoln. As a Union spy he made valuable high-level Confederate connections before betrayal led to his execution. Continue reading A Spy for the Union: The Life and Execution of Timothy Webster by Corey Recko

Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride by Michael Wallis

Publication Date: March 17, 2008

 

Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride by Michael Wallis

Better World Books Reading Challenge – A Book that Rewrites History

Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride by Michael Wallis is a retelling of William Antrim’s story based on what is known of his life from cradle to grave and a look at the events that contributed to his outlook on life and interaction with the growing western population.

Continue reading Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride by Michael Wallis

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Publication Date: January 1, 2006

 

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten BoomBetter World Book Challenge 3 – A Childhood Favorite

In The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, the author and her family lived in Haarlem in the Netherlands in 1940 when the Nazis invaded. As Calvinists, they saw it as their duty to help God’s people and set about creating a hiding place in their home for Jewish people that came to them for refuge. The Hiding Place follows their quest to save those they could and their ultimate capture and internment.  Continue reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Twelve Days In May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimner

Publication Date: October 24, 2017

 

Twelve Days In May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane BrimnerTwelve Days In May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimnerchronicles the journey of 13 black and white Civil Rights Activists from Washington D.C. to New Orleans. The riders planned a protest of the southern states ignoring two Supreme Court rulings that segregation on buses crossing state lines was unconstitutional. The protest was meant to be peaceful and shine a light on the nonobservance of the rulings in the south. What met them on their journey was violence and hate.    Continue reading Twelve Days In May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimner

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Release Date: February 2, 2010

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootIn 1951, Tobacco Farmer Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer. Before her death, cervical cells were harvested without her consent and became the first human cells to grow in a lab. They would grow an entire generation of new cells in a 24-hour period. Over the years those cells, known as HeLa to scientists, became a hot commodity in the scientific world standing at the forefront of some of the greatest medical breakthroughs, but Henrietta Lacks remained largely unknown. Unknown — until her daughter started looking to find out more about the mother she’d never known. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is her story.    Continue reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict by Austin Reed

Publication Date: January 24, 2017

 

The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict by Austin ReedThe Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict by Austin Reed is the nineteenth-century account of his life as a free, black man born in 1823 who spent his life between hard labor, indentured servitude and incarceration at America’s first industrial prison. The recently discovered manuscript written when Reed was still in prison was authenticated by Yale scholar, Caleb Smith and includes letters written by Reed later in his life.    Continue reading The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict by Austin Reed

The Frood: The Authorised & Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Jem Roberts

Publication Date: March 1, 2016

 

The Frood: The Authorised & Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Jem RobertsThe Frood: The Authorised & Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Jem Roberts is an examination of the influences and impact of the late Douglas Adams on British comedy, his most famous work, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and his legacy.

Continue reading The Frood: The Authorised & Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Jem Roberts

Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen Tintori

Publication Date: July 8, 2008

 

Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen TintoriIn Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen Tintori, the author writes about hints of matters that no one in the family would talk about. When the sister became the “one they got rid of” as a result of her aunt’s slip of the tongue, Tintori felt compelled to pursue the secret that her family had kept for many years. The author takes the reader on the process from innocent genealogy research to a deep secret uncovered.

Continue reading Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen Tintori