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Showing 1-10 of 29 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 52 reviews
on June 14, 2016
This is a very interesting case ALTHOUGH I'm not fond of the various voices in the book. I personally do not like such an approach wherein the author flips back and forth between various family friends and relatives to unfold the story.
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on April 29, 2008
I first read this book when it originally came out. I was in high school and like many teenagers I was prepared to see parents as the source of most teenage troubles. After reading this book, I promptly wrote my parents a nice letter about what swell people they were. I was that grateful not to have had Brooks and Barbara Baekeland for parents.

This is the rare book that proved even better than I remembered when I reread it last month. It starts with the murder of Barbara Baekeland by her son then goes back in time to beginnings of the Baekeland fortune through the passionate but ill-fated marriage of Brooks and Barbara until it catches up with the murder and the sad denouement of Tony's life. As one reviewer here has noted, this is not a traditional narrative but an oral history. The transcripts of interviews are presented without comment - very much like Jean Stein's great Edie and Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil - and the speakers reveal far more about themselves than any narrative could.

If there is a villain in this story, for me it wasn't Tony Baekeland, who clearly suffered from serious mental illness but his father Brooks Baekeland. Rarely have I come across a character in fiction or nonfiction who made me want to slap him so hard or so often. Early on one former friend of the Baekelands' talks about wanting to kill Brooks in the street with a brick. By the end of the book you may, like me, find this to be a perfectly reasonable response because Brooks is a piece of work. In fact, he's a complete jerk. If I'd been Tony's lawyer I'd have used the fact that Tony had the opportunity to kill his father yet didn't as Exhibit A in the fact that Tony was insane. Whether he's yammering on about how much he was like his brilliant grandfather, complaining about the fact that Tony couldn't stick with anything (this from a writer who only managed to write one short story and didn't finish his PhD!) or basically abandoning Tony after he's released from Broadmoor, Brooks Baekeland is a loathsome individual. His blatant homophobia and sheer lack of compassion will take your breath away. Other characters come across as clueless or careless but Brooks is downright diabolical in his self-absorption.

As an evocation of a time, a certain type of ultra-privileged couple (the sort with artistic pretensions but little talent or commitment) and a mind boggling selfishness, Savage Grace is a book to read and reread. It's suited for True Crime and biography fans. As noted, if you don't like oral histories you probably won't like it - there is very little narrative holding the interviews together. When the author wants to describe Riker's Island, she presents her description as an interview, for example. If you enjoy hearing the story from the mouths of those who lived it, Savage Grace is a book you won't soon forget.
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on April 15, 2015
What a twisted story...not for children to read. I watched the movie afterward and it does not do the book justice. This book has it all..incest, drugs, anal sex, MONEY, Insanity, The good life? I highly recommend if you want to feel good about YOUR LIFE!
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on April 27, 2017
I don't enjoy reading an entire booked based on excerpts from people instead of just a story.
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on January 17, 2017
What a horrible tale of how people can destroy each other actively and by failing to act. The boy is gay, so his nutty homophobic mother tries to rape some sense into him. The homophobic father wants nothing to do with either of them so doesn't call her on her crimes or help they boy. instead noodling around the world blowing family money and having some affairs. The boy goes nuts from a lack of humanity in the midst of the opulence of travel, money and society. Their friends at the time don't acknowledge that sexual assault by a woman is a thing and can be utterly devastating, much like many of the reviews right here today.

It's bizarre to have this kind of access to the extremely personal thoughts and actions but it seems part of the rich folks' thing - they want an audience. I read it because of a grim curiosity. It's the usual train wreck of the rich and famous kind of thing.

I was hoping for more about the invention of Bakelite as part of the exciting growth of American industrialization in the 20th century. Don't know if that book's out there, but this ain't it. There's nothing technical about plastic, just some notes about how Hendrik Frederick Baekeland was as nutty as the rest of them, preferring canned meals eaten cold with a spoon despite his amazing wealth.
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on July 29, 2008
This excellent oral history Natalie Robins and Steven M. Aronson of the doomed Bake-lite plastic heir Tony Baekeland (and of his beautiful mother Barbara, whom he slept with and later stabbed to death) has been enjoying renewed interest since the release of Tom Kalin's beautiful but somewhat limp film adaptation of it starring Julianne Moore. I came to the book through the movie, but the book is so much more interesting than the film version that in many ways it puts it to shame. Robins and Aronson wrest a compelling and very trickily wrought narrative arc out of their archive of letters, hospital reports, police accounts, and interviews: we start with Barbara Baekeland's stabbing in 1972, and the narrative follows both Tony's progress through the courts, the Broadmoor mental hospital in England, and then through his almost inexplicable release from incarceration back to the United States where tragedy inevitably strikes a second time and then a third; all the while, the authors follow a wider narrative path by describing how the great chemist Leo Baekeland invented Bake-lite, the first practical plastic, decades earlier, and how his own problems with his socialite wife repeated with his son George and then with his grandson Brooks, who married the beautiful Bostonian model Barbara Daly. As Brooks and Barbara race from Cadaques to Mallorca to London to Paris, hanging out with the moneyed European expatriate crowd (they numbered among their friends the writers James Jones and William Styron, the heiress Ethel Woodward de Croisset, and all kinds of minor princelings and society doyennes), their marriage begins to crumble... with their only child Tony being alternately smothered with attention and then neglected.

The suspense about what's going to happen as Tony's schizophrenic behavior keeps exploding rachets this oral biography even above more famous works such as Jean Stein and George Plimpton's EDIE and Plimpton's TRUMAN CAPOTE. Moreover, the kind of demimonde the Baekelands move through is absolutely fascinating, although the constant snobbishness, pretentiousness, and absolute refusal to take responsibility for anything among their circle begins to drive you to distraction after a good while. Most maddening of all is Brooks Baekeland himself, whose voice dominates more than any other this oral history (since of course of all the surviving characters he was closest to the epicenter), constantly excoriating his son for all the traits he himself exemplified: arrogance, dilettantism, and concupiscence. This book brings you into a heightened and fragile jetsetters' world you may have longed to see, but it then quickly makes you glad you were never a part of it.
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on May 10, 2009
I saw the movie first and found it very disturbing. But it was interesting and I had to go to Google to find out what happened to the son after what he did to his mother. That just further intrigued me so I had to read the book.

I thought the book was good. I would have preferred if it had not been written in the form of letters and diaries, the whole book was put together in that way, it was disjointed for me.

However I am glad I bought it as it did tell the whole story, and the pictures in the center were very enjoyable.

The book, as always, tells a much more consise story of what happened in that family. It's an American Tragedy really. It got me to thinking that matriarchal incest is probably much more popular than reported.

It was a sad, tragic tale, of a mother who was a narcist, a father who was emotionally absent, and the boy they turned into a monster. They designed him, as surely as Dr. Frankenstein made his monster.

Even though Tony ended up horribly insane, my heart went out to that little boy that was so warped and so angry that he reacted in the way, finally, that he almost was hard wired to. I was surprised that he took his grandma out too later on, but with so much anger I guess she got the after shock.

I would recommend anyone to read this book, but only if you enjoy reading about the dark side of families. The movie was good, but ended after Tony did what he did to his mother, there was too much left unsaid, the movie ended before their saga did. So if you have to pick one, pick the book.

There is such a thing as too much money, too much idle time, and incest between mother and son, and it is a combustable combination.
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on December 12, 2016
This book was compiled so unevenly it was difficult to keep track of the timeline. Eventually I gave up and just read the sections as presented and quit trying to make sense of "who this person" was or "where" or "when". This is not a "story" or a biography, it is a collection of letters and recollections. It offers no insight other than that offered by the letters and recollections themselves and even they are the shallowest of speculations, rumor and innuendo. Other than getting a glimpse into these vacuous lives and misguided jet-setters via their own letters (damn, these people wrote letters for every little thing) the book had no redeeming purpose (IMHO). Save your money.
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on September 4, 2015
Took awhile to get used to reading the story the way it was written but it turned out to be a most fascinating read. Highly recommend.
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on December 16, 2016
Great condition.
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