- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 10 hours and 18 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Brilliance Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: September 26, 2017
- Language: English
- ASIN: B075VB95PT
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home Audiobook – Unabridged
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While George had the idea to build Biltmore House and hired the various individuals to implement his idea, Edith is the individual who protected both Biltmore House and the Asheville area and ensured that her husband’s legacy would remain. She was devoted to the area and the Biltmore’s employees. I found Edith fascinating and was pleased that Kiernan devoted substantial pages to Edith’s story. She lived for a long time after George died and left quite a legacy of her own.
Not only does Denise Kiernan thoroughly and thoughtfully recreate the timeline for and the process that went into the building of Biltmore House, she also places this monumental endeavor into its historical context. Adding historical context is either skillfully accomplished or haphazardly included in a manner that makes the story disjointed and hard to follow. Thankfully, Kiernan masterfully incorporates the history of both the Vanderbilt family and George’s wife Edith Stuyvesant Dresser’s family, events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania, both World Wars, the development of Forestry Programs (such as the one developed at Biltmore House), and the impact of the Great Depression; I never found myself wondering why a topic was being addressed or how I was suddenly reading about some new subject. The Last Castle flows beautifully, and I learned copious amounts of information about both the Vanderbilts and Biltmore House and in addition the decades spanned by the building of this magnificent mansion.
The book abounds with fascinating facts and details from the late 1800’s to the death of George and Edith’s daughter Cornelia’s death in 1976. The highlights for me were the descriptions of John Singer Sargent painting various portraits at Biltmore House, the innovative refrigeration, wiring and elevator systems installed at the house, that Teddy Roosevelt was visiting Biltmore House when the idea for the teddy bear came about, and that Edith’s second marriage was to Elbridge Gerry, the individual who inspired the term “gerrymandering”. I also was unaware that George and Edith had almost traveled on the Titanic but chosen last minute to take an earlier ship. The historical information included in the book was a true highlight for me.
The Last Castle provides a glimpse into the Gilded Age, an era of excess and untold wealth, and one man’s decision to build the grandest home in the United States. I highly recommend this fabulous book. Thanks to Touchstone and Goodreads Giveaways for the chance to read this ARC. All opinions are my own.
Perhaps the author's biggest challenge, partially met, was to make G.W. Vanderbilt interesting, and while he had some notable ideas about what he wanted at Biltmore, Vanderbilt was largely an empty vessel. His wife Edith was much more intriguing and it is to her -- and her grandson and his descendants -- that we owe the preservation of Biltmore through turbulent generations. Kieran's is a very good read with a couple of picky complaints: nothing I can recall in the house seems "cozy" to use one of the author's words, and I would love to have had more and better photos to show the interior to readers unfamiliar with it.
Most recent customer reviews
I felt it could have been more exciting and not completely factual