Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty

Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe. Harper, $30 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-296461-8
CNN anchor Cooper (The Rainbow Comes and Goes) and novelist Howe (The Daughters of Temperance Hobbes) tell the story of “the greatest American fortune ever squandered” in this juicy portrait of Cooper’s forebears, the Vanderbilts. Tracing the family’s American origins to a Dutch indentured servant who arrived in New Amsterdam (present-day New York City) in 1650, the authors showcase the Vanderbilts as a study in “our country’s mythos,” the belief that anyone can become wealthy if “they have enough gumption, have enough grit, or ruthlessness.” In the 19th century, 18-year-old Cornelius Vanderbilt made money ferrying supplies to the British military during the war of 1812, and went on to build railroads, leaving behind a $100 million inheritance to his son William, who was the only Vanderbilt to ever add to the family fortune. William’s daughter-in-law, Alva, transformed from a society doyenne to a key leader of the women’s suffrage movement, while her son, Harold, became a champion yachtsman. In the book’s most moving section, Cooper recounts his mother Gloria’s traumatic childhood, which involved a “sort-of-kidnapping” and a drawn-out custody battle, and her out-of-control spending and dysfunctional relationships as an adult. Marked by meticulous research and deep emotional insight, this is a memorable chronicle of American royalty. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 08/26/2021
Release date: 09/21/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-0-06-313759-2
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-06-311832-4
Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-06-296464-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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