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During the summer of 2006, as I began researching Mrs. Astor Regrets, I thought that I was in the midst of a deeply textured family saga about society, money, and betrayal. What I could not have imagined was that just three years later I would have a regular seat on a wooden bench in a shabby New York courtroom as Tony Marshall--Brooke Astor's 85-year-old patrician son--stood trial on charges of looting his mother's $185 million estate while she was still alive. What started in 2006 as a bitter but quaintly old-fashioned family fight over the care and custody of the 104-year-old grande dame of New York society had become an eighteen-count criminal indictment charging Tony Marshall with grand larceny and his trusts-and-estates lawyer, Francis Morrissey, Jr., with conspiracy and forgery.
Mrs. Astor Regrets ends with Tony Marshall's indictment. But rather than becoming outdated by events surrounding the trial, the book is more timely than ever. The father-versus-son theme, which was at the heart of the struggle over Brooke Astor's care, was acted out in court when twin sons Philip and Alec Marshall both testified against their father as prosecution witnesses. Afterward, I saw Tony Marshall and his wife, Charlene Marshall, weeping in the corridor in response to this wrenching Oedipal moment.
Ever since I heard the prosecution's opening argument in late April, I have been seized by a sense of déjà vu. The entire outline of the case has followed the trajectory of Mrs. Astor Regrets. I began my story with a richly detailed account of Brooke Astor's one hundredth birthday party in 2002--given by David Rockefeller at his country estate--because artistically it set up the contrast between the society icon’s glittering life and the sad isolation that would soon follow. The prosecution used the birthday party as a framework for their own narrative, quizzing witnesses like Barbara Walters, Annette de la Renta, Nancy Kissinger, and Viscount Astor (all quoted in Mrs. Astor Regrets) about the same party and showing the jury a video of the festivities on a huge courtroom screen.
The prosecutors and the defense lawyers have told me that Mrs. Astor Regrets was required reading as they prepared for the trial. In the corridor outside the courtroom, newspaper reporters (and even a police detective) have asked me to autograph their copies of the book. About the only group left out of the loop are the twelve jurors and four alternates sitting in judgment of Tony Marshall and Francis Morrissey. They are forbidden from reading it because the judge has not allowed into evidence many of the details from the guardianship lawsuit over Mrs. Astor's care that Philip Marshall (joined by David Rockefeller, Annette de la Renta, and Henry Kissinger) filed against his father in 2006.
As a fan of mystery novels, I get an eerie feeling spending four days a week right in the middle of one. I will say that authors must have a better sense of dramatic pacing than courtroom lawyers. The Astor trial is not expected to go to the jury until early August. I have lived with this story for three years, and there remains only one important question for which I have no answer: Will the jury find Tony Marshall and Francis Morrissey, Jr. guilty as charged?
What I do know is that Brooke Astor was so devoted to the rituals of society that she still dressed for dinner, with matching evening bag and dress, at the age of 104. Part of the code that governed Mrs. Astor's life was a sense of personal privacy even when she was a renowned philanthropist to New York's leading charities. To have all this being argued in open court--in a way that has torn her family asunder--is something that Mrs. Astor would indeed regret. --Meryl Gordon
(Photo © Nina Subin)
I have not read this one but am aware of her story and that of other rich widows and children of the robber barons.Published 28 days ago by N. J. Price
Ugh! I cannot believe I bought this book. Just a warning: A large part of this book is about a court case that was still in progress when this book went to print. Read morePublished 1 month ago by joo
Guide long, but interesting on family matters concerning wealth.Published 1 month ago by Myra M. Miller
The sad saga of greed by someone who was a millionaire many times over. After many years of faithful service to his mother, Tony Marshall steals from her, Brooke Astor, to insure... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Patricia A Smith
The book gets boring after a while and I had a hard time finishing it.Published 3 months ago by Cat
Fair, thought provoking and cannot hardly put this book down. If you want the facts, I believe Meryl has done it here. And so eloquently.Published 3 months ago by Pat Norris
She lived to be 105. We're still talking about this fabulously wealthy woman in 2015. If you enjoy stories of the gilded age when the rich became richer and foolishly spent money... Read morePublished 3 months ago by V. L. Wilson
Great book on the wonderful life of Brooke Astor! So very sad when families bicker & fight over Family money, properties and belongings. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Rose M. Higgins
Very interesting story. Tells the story without bias and gives a clear picture of what happened without blaming anyone. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer