Customer Reviews


151 Reviews
5 star:
 (48)
4 star:
 (56)
3 star:
 (16)
2 star:
 (10)
1 star:
 (21)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


131 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulosity just in time for the holidays
This is a fabulous book. Not in the dictionary sense of "hard to believe" or exceptionally good. It is fabulous in the "must be read with a bonbon and preferably a cocktail nearby." What hundreds of chick-lit books try to achieve every year this one does in the first few pages.

The Astor scandal was perfect tabloid fodder. Brooke Astor was a NYC institution...
Published on October 21, 2008 by MJS

versus
43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Greek Tragedy Played on a New York Stage
With our nation on the verge of an economic catastrophe, the story of Mrs. Astor, her family, and her lifestyle, evokes the greed and avarice that obsesses Wall Street and that has driven us to our economic crisis. Mrs. Astor Regrets is a tale of dysfunction permeating generations of a family. It has all the hallmarks of a Greek tragedy in a modern day setting. There are...
Published on October 4, 2008 by R. Crane


‹ Previous | 1 216 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

131 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulosity just in time for the holidays, October 21, 2008
By 
MJS "Constant Reader" (New York, United States) - See all my reviews
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a fabulous book. Not in the dictionary sense of "hard to believe" or exceptionally good. It is fabulous in the "must be read with a bonbon and preferably a cocktail nearby." What hundreds of chick-lit books try to achieve every year this one does in the first few pages.

The Astor scandal was perfect tabloid fodder. Brooke Astor was a NYC institution well-known for her philanthropy, impeccable name and a hat collection that rivaled Queen Elizabeth. Even in the 90s, Brooke Astor always dressed to impress; she considered it her job to impress the common folk. When news hit that Mrs Astor's grandson was accusing her son of denying her the very luxuries her name conjures the tabloids worked themselves into a ritual frenzy of indignation. As author Meryl Gordon notes, every New York summer needs a scandal and Brooke Astor provided in 2006 like a last bequest to the city she loved.

Meryl Gordon's book reads like an extended, very well-research magazine article, which is suitable to the task. If you want erudition, see Frances Kiernan's fine biography "The Last Mrs Astor." If you want fabulousness, this is the book for you.

How fabulous, you ask. Custom de la Renta gowns, wives (who may be lesbians) who pick out a suitable successor so they can get a divorce, dogs named Boysie and Girlsie, loyal butlers and minister's wives who leave their husbands for rich older men - we're talking 10 out of 10 on the fabulous scale. That last ingredient on the fabulous list is Charlene, the third wife of Mrs Astor's son Tony Marshall, and she appears to come from central casting. She's from a proverbial good family of limited means complete with Southern Gothic levels of dysfunction, she follows her Episcopal minister husband to tony Northeast Harbor in Maine where she meets Tony Marshall at a church function. Before you can say gold-digger (not that I'm implying anything) Charlene and Tony are meeting at sunrise for walks that last all day. Throughout the book Charlene is peeved whenever anyone implies that she was interested in Tony primarily for this proximity to the Astor millions. Hilariously, she's usually expressing this outrage at the same time she's expressing outrage at the avarice of others.

Gordon tries hard to present both sides of the story. She makes it clear that Brooke's maternal instincts were limited to her dogs. Tony Marshall comes across as a sad character, without a real father most of his life, he then becomes the stepson of the incredibly wealthy Vincent Astor. So close to untold millions and yet so far. Everyone knows his mother for her gleeful sharing of her bounty, yet Tony must rely on Brooke to get him "suitable" employment. But even $450K a year is a pittance if you set your sights high enough and Tony and Charlene's minds are in the stratosphere.

Try as you might, you'll find it hard not to infer that Tony and Charlene saw Brooke linger on (and on and on) past 100, and suffering from Alzheimer's, soaking up the millions that they see as practically their's anyway. She won't notice the difference between Creme de la Mer and Sauve, they must have told themselves. Whether she noticed or not, her servants were outraged. Mrs Astor never skimped. That said, it's equally hard to feel sorry for Tony Marshall, especially when he hooks up with a lawyer famous for his shady billing practices to "help" Brooke make adjustments to her will. Rarely will you find so many people fighting over so much money that they have so little claim to.

I could go on about how the Astor case is a tale of adults who never learned to bond emotionally as children but, really, why bother? That's not the point of this book. The point is diverting enjoyment and this is the perfect diversion from the hassles of the holiday season. It's like a bonbon in holiday wrapping. Think of it as Mrs Astor's last bequest to the common folk.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Juicy Dish, October 17, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had only seen headlines about the Astor case, and not really paid attention. I don't usually concern myself with the affairs of the stupendously wealthy, but this book sounded interesting. Boy, am I glad I gave it a shot.

First, the story is a real page-turner. As I began to learn about the history of the Astor family and how Brooke became The Last Mrs. Astor, I was intensely interested in how all of this was going to end up being tabloid fodder. Though meticulous in her research and sourcing for this book, Meryl Gordon has a prose style that skillfully weaves a narrative of the various facts.

The complexities of the story are fiction-worthy. While she doesn't pass judgment, Gordon gives all of the characters room to be. By the end, I had grown fond of almost all of them, and had sincere feelings of empathy even for those I felt were villains.

One thing I like about a book like this is the opportunity to see how the upper crust live. When I find myself taking sides between Brooke Astor, her son and his wives, her grandson, Annette De La Renta, Mrs. Astor's butler, her nurses and other staff, and even a Rockefeller or two, I get a delicious sense of how everyone's problems are real, no matter their station in life.

While a biographical treatment of someone who's famous for being rich is not generally my cup of tea, this book was a fascinating read. That someone with so much money and power could have been a potential victim of elder abuse was a startling concept to confront. My feeling initially was that it would be hard to give a hoot about people who have homes with names, who wear millions of dollars in jewelry and furs and receive flowers from Prince Charles on their birthdays. However, I grew quite fond of that tough old bird as her character was fleshed out by recollections of such luminaries as Barbara Walters and Nancy Reagan. By the time the private family matter leaked to front page headlines pitting a son against his father over the mistreatment of his grandmother, I was seriously scandalized myself, worried even that Mrs. Astor might learn of her family secrets being common knowledge.

Part of the power of this book is the lure of Brooke Astor. The rest is solid reporting and good storytelling.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No one wins, September 30, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Several months ago a Vanity Fair article focused on the battle between Tony and Charlene Marshall and Tony's son Phillip, over the care of Tony's elderly mother. Not a matter of public curiosity, except Tony Marshall was the son of Brooke Astor, the grand dame of New York and the care of Mrs. Astor included access to her homes and possessions as well as her monies. Their battle captivated New York headlines and resulted in eventual indictments.

Meryl Gordon has gone behind the headlines and crafted a thoughtful, incisive look at the life of Brooke Astor and the forces that eventually brought a father and son to loggerheads. Brooke Astor was born into a time when families readily gave their daughters to marriage to gain wealth, influence and noble title. After an unhappy first marriage, Brooke married Buddie Marshall, who she referred to as the "love of my life" and bore her only child Anthony. Six months after Buddie's unexpected death Brooke accepted Vincent Astor's marriage proposal and life changed for her and Tony. She began her ascent to the top of society and Tony was often at boarding schools. Though there was never again a financial worry, mother and son were never able to be close. The birth of twins to Tony and his first wife brought some temporary family closeness that later fflounders after Tony marries his third wife.

Meryl Gordon has crafted a well balanced, even handed account of the events leading to the court fight and Mrs. Astor's final days. Using Brook's autobiographies, letters, articles, public court documents and the recollections of countless friends and staff, she has provided insight into the tawdry headlines. Despite becoming New York's beloved philanthropist and social leader; Brooke Astor was unable to prevent the disintrigation of her own family. While it would be easy to vilify several of the participants, Gordon has managed to stay objective and allows the reader to see the sadness in a situation where family turns on itself and the object of their attentions is almost lost in the fray.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Greek Tragedy Played on a New York Stage, October 4, 2008
By 
R. Crane (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With our nation on the verge of an economic catastrophe, the story of Mrs. Astor, her family, and her lifestyle, evokes the greed and avarice that obsesses Wall Street and that has driven us to our economic crisis. Mrs. Astor Regrets is a tale of dysfunction permeating generations of a family. It has all the hallmarks of a Greek tragedy in a modern day setting. There are no happy endings.

While she was well-known for her philanthropy, her generosity masked her means for attaining social position and power. She was gracious to strangers and close friends, but she was not a "nice" woman. Astor was married to someone else when she snagged him. She was a terrible mother who seemed to hate her only child, Tony Marshall, because in some way he reminded her of his father, her first husband, who was a wife-beating alcoholic. He spent a traumatized childhood, apparently bonding only with his maternal grandfather. When Brooke married Vincent Astor, he was further isolated because Astor did not like him. It helps to understand the emotional triggers of Tony Marshall's childhood to better grasp how anyone could have allegedly abused an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer's.

In this saga of equating money with love, while Brooke was married to her second husband, before Astor, both Tony's parents bombarded him for financial support from a trust fund that they had established in his name. Pathetically trying to please them both, he apparently provided that support. Yet, when Brooke inherited the Astor millions, she was unbelievably tight-fisted with him and her grandchildren. While giving away millions to public charities, all designed to enhance her public image, Mrs. Astor limited her support of her own kin. Her grandchildren and great grand children, lived ordinary, if not struggling, middle class lives, seemingly devoid of luxuries, while she wallowed in wealth. She constantly taunted Tony about money and what he should expect to inherit, then rewrote and changed her wills. Though Tony was Brooke's son, he was not an Astor. It is hard to understand how a mother could have insisted on this distinction, barely sharing her wealth with her only child and kin.

The Astor scandal hit the Press when Brooke's grandson, Phillip Marshall, a Buddhist and professor of the esoteric art of matching paint chips to landmarks to identify the original colors for restoration, filed suit to remove his father and third wife, Charlene, from guardianship of Brooke. By then Brooke was incapable of taking care of herself, mentally incompetent and surrounded by nurses. Phillip accused his father of elder abuse and financial mismanagement. There are numerous tales of how Brooke despised Charlene and used every opportunity to embarrass her. Yet Tony and Charlene seemed to be soulmates, and he seemed to be genuinely happy in this marriage. Brooke so detested Charlene, her Will was written to exclude Charlene from inheriting anything if Tony (who is about 20 years older with poor health) died before her.

This may have been the cause that ignited what became a criminal investigation into how Tony managed his mother's finances. Indeed, the criminal case against him is still being prosecuted. On another front, Mrs. Astor's last Will (and what contitutes that last Will) is also being contested, but its' resolution must await the outcome of the crimminal case against Tony. Charlene's jealousy and mutual hatred of Brooke is suggested as the cause of what Tony did, as well as a way for him to provide financially for her. And here the greed question raises its ugly head again: when is enough money, enough?

What stands out is the innumerable lawyers, accountants, PR Firms, public institutions, medical personnel, house staff, etc. involved as witneses or petitioners. The cultural icons of New York, the Metropolitan Museum, the New York Public Library etc. seem even greedier than Wall Street, as they jockey to get their hands on her money. One wonders, what if anything will be left of the famed Astor millions when the final bills and costs of the legal battles, are calculated. Tony is now in his mid-eighties, and he and Charlene are social pariahs, disgraced and shunned by his mother's social circles. Tony and his own two sons, Phillip (who filed the suit) and Alec,his twin brother (who tried to remain neutral), are alienated. The lives of several paragons of New York Society, such as Brooke's best friends Annette de la Renta and David Rockefeller, have been consumed in this fight against Tony and Charlene Marshall. No one is unscathed. The final denouement is yet to be decided in courts. Will Tony, former ambassador and scion of New York's most privileged family, end up in jail? Will he even survive all the pressure and financial burdens now upon him? Will he ever reconcile with his children? Stay tuned.

The author has done thorough research, and gives a balanced perspective on the warring factions. She provides excruciating details of life a la Brooke. No matter how much Mrs. Astor has given to charities, at heart she remains a shallow narcissist. One can only admire the charitable giving of the Warren Buffets and Bill Gates of the world all the more.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great tale of wealth & intrigue -- and it's all true!, October 1, 2008
By 
Abby Raffles (NJ United States) - See all my reviews
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I sit down with a biography, this is exactly the kind of book I look for. A fabulous story, well told. Everyone read in the magazines about Brooke Astor. This book doesn't tell you the kind of person she was, it SHOWS you. There is a maxim for creative writing students, "Don't tell, show." This author knows how to do it. What I liked was that she never came out with judgements. She let you judge for yourself. She provided you with loads and loads of information so you could have an informed opinion. For instance, she never says anything indicating Brooke Astor wasn't much of a mother or grandmother. But there are countless times throughout the book when staff and friends tell of her son being left out of her parties. At one big event, she did all the seating charts, and she had him next to the kitchen door, while she and her friends sat up front. At her 90th birthday party, her twin grandsons roamed around the room restlessly, because they didn't know anybody and no one knew them, because she had never made them part of her life. She had never included them in any parties or balls or charities. She had not been a grandmother they could come see. They knew nothing about her. People felt sorry for them. All of a sudden, in the last decade of her life, Brooke Astor decides she loves her grandsons. It's sad that they were eager to become part of their famous grandmother's world. They should have been part of it all along.

And the way she hated her son's wives -- she let jealousy reign in her heart. The author provides many glimpses into Brooke Astor's life that you won't learn unless you talked to her staff and friends. This woman really didn't have any family. She turned her back on the few family members she had, but was a big deal to the rest of the world. And that's the way she liked it. This book is fascinating! I kept it by my bed and gobbled some each night.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of family dysfunction, December 3, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The life and death of wealthy philanthropist Brooke Astor and the ultimate showdown between her son and grandsons make for compulsive reading in this well-researched book. Astor was an interesting woman, well loved by millions and liberally generous with her money. On the other hand, she was cool and stingy about sharing it with her family. Her only son, Tony Marshall, now in his 80s, is set to stand trial in 2009 for elder abuse and making changes to her will after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. So the ending of this debacle is yet to come. After reading this book, the actions of Marshall and his wife certainly come across as corrupt and circumspect but since they didn't talk to the author as much as those on the other side, the book ends like an unsolved mystery. Interesting and compulsively readable, the book's lengthy chapters sometimes seem too long and a lot of the information is repeated again and again. Still, the author is to be commended for the vast amount of research and interviews she conducted as well as wrangling with all the legal jargon. Highly recommended!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High Society Low Society, October 24, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach is the kind of book that's pretty seductive even if you open to any random page. I was hooked at the first mention of a "perp walk"...and had to find out more!

I remember the media picture of Mrs. Astor: a high-society fixture, and a philanthropist. Not someone you're likely to meet at Burger King in Toledo, rather a kind of symbol of an older era when the rich found meaning (after acquiring their wealth) in giving it away to "good causes". She was the last of the great ones, so the details of her life and the sad last days and the troubles that money can bring-well, it's riveting.

The rather sad fact of the matter is that Mrs. Astor's :"almost 200 million" (sounds a lot less impressive, lately, in light of the astronomic costs of the war in Iraq and the bank rescue the Fed bankrolled) couldn't protect her from dysfunctionality, from age, from a sad death. Recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Look into the Mega Rich life.....and death, October 24, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
After I closed the pages of this book, I felt a great sense of sadness for a woman who had the ultimate in wealth, yet the jewels of her own family were bone chillingly depleted. Her life is bloated with greedy, manipulative, narcissists, yet also, charming and powerful individuals. Mrs. Astor was a highly driven woman whose own character is marred despite her devotion to humanitarian efforts.

The book forces us to look at our own lives. I was able to look around at my basic existence and honor the loyalty & bonds I have, and cherish them. Mega-money isn't the cure for happiness & certainly doesn't make problems disappear. In fact, Mega Money can be a disease of epidemic proportions.

The book is emotional, riveting and insightful. It shows the human nature of us all & that class doesn't necessarily come from wealth.

Four stars!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book about a shallow woman, October 10, 2008
By 
LA (United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is not a full-scale biography on Mrs. Astor. It is, however, a fascinating account of a mystery. Like many others, I was shocked to hear about the sad ending to Mrs. Astor's life. One of the richest women in America died in horrible conditions, and her son was accused of abuse and theft. What led to this tragedy?

The purpose of this well-written book is to detail the events that led up to Mrs. Astor's death and the resulting court case. The author includes lots of interviews and tells the story in a compelling way. Despite giving away millions of dollars to charities, Mrs. Astor was not a nice woman. She also had little depth. What's remarkable is that the author makes us care even a little bit about her.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Betrayls, Dementia and Money, October 10, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mrs. Astor Regrets - Meryl Gordon

If you are expecting a gossipy, light biography about America's pseudo royalty, change your expectations.
While we do get plenty of juicy tidbits on the life of Brooke Astor Philanthropist, Ms Gordon delivers a hard nosed look at Elder abuse, theft, hate and Alzheimer's; and an in depth look at a dysfunctional family. Unfortunately what stands in the way of me giving this book solid 5 stars, is the fact that the timeline is so hard to follow. There are times where years seem flip back and forth so fast in the space of a paragraph or two, that it was making me dizzy with trying to keep things straight! Another thing that I thought was unnecessary was adding the depth of the background of some secondary and tertiary characters.

While this book will never serve to make Mrs. Astor look like an angel, (far from it) it is a good look at the fact that it's not just the poor and middle class elderly suffering from dementia and familial abuse, nor is it just the poor and middle classes dealing with dysfunctional families.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 216 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach
Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach by Meryl Gordon (Paperback - October 22, 2009)
Used & New from: $0.05
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.