A biography that looks behind the headlines, and the gates of the house of Astor, as the famous family falls apart in public.
The fate of Brooke Astor, the endearing philanthropist with the storied name, has generated worldwide headlines since her grandson Philip sued his father in 2006, alleging mistreatment of Brooke. And shortly after her death in 2007, Anthony Marshall, Mrs. Astor’s only child, was indicted on charges of looting her estate. Rarely has there been a story with such an appealing heroine, conjuring up a world so nearly forgotten: a realm of lavish wealth and secrets of the sort that have engaged Americans from the era of Edith Wharton to the more recent days of Truman Capote.New York journalist Meryl Gordon has interviewed not only the elite of Brooke Astor’s social circle, but also the large staff who cosseted and cared for Mrs. Astor during her declining years. The result is the behind-the-headlines story of the Astor empire’s unraveling, filled with never-before-reported scenes. This powerful, poignant saga takes the reader inside the gilded gates of an American dynasty to tell of three generations’ worth of longing and missed opportunities. Even in this territory of privilege, no riches can put things right once they’ve been torn asunder. Here is an American epic of the bonds of money, morality, and social position.
Updated with new material from inside the Brooke Astor Trial
USA Today“An even-handed and fascinating portrait of a wealthy family torn apart by money, jealousy, and emotional distance.”—“If the tabloids are your morning cup of tea, this is your book.”—New York Times Book Review
The indictment in November 2007 of Anthony (Tony) Marshall, the only child of the late legendary philanthropist Brooke Astor, for misuse of his mother's fortune led to an unheard-of scrutiny of America's discreet aristocracy. Gordon, a journalist whose New York magazine article on the scandal in August 2006 formed the germ of this extended work, delivers a balanced, dogged and ultimately sad detective account of how Astor's grandson Philip Marshall ended up betraying Tony, his own father. Horrified by accounts of the shamefully reduced conditions under which his then 103-year-old grandmother was being cared for (attested to by servants and Astor's good friends Annette de la Renta and David Rockefeller), Philip legally challenged his father, the custodian of her considerable estate, and Tony's wife, Charlene, citing in particular the uncharacteristic altering of Brooke's will in the last years before she died (she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's). Gordon sifts painstakingly through the rubble of the extended Astor family history, from Brooke's disastrous first marriage at age 17 to her dazzling reinvention in her 50s as the celebrity widow of Vincent Astor (who died in 1959), firmly ensconced at the helm of the venerable and very useful Astor Foundation. In the end, Gordon tells a sad and moving story of elder abuse.
Mrs. Astors regrets
Such a wonderful story that needed to be told. Could not put it down for half the facts and details. To not want to miss one sentence. Extremely fascinated by the Astor family.