The New York Times
The Last Mrs. Astor: A New York Storyby Frances Kiernan
"Kiernan's sharp-eyed biography brings back a woman who, far into her 90s, relished the dance of life."—O MagazineThe fabulous life of Brooke Astor, a pioneer of philanthropy and for decades a luminary of New York society. Hers is a story out of Edith Wharton. After a disastrous early marriage, Brooke Astor wedded the notoriously ill-tempered/p>/em>
"Kiernan's sharp-eyed biography brings back a woman who, far into her 90s, relished the dance of life."—O MagazineThe fabulous life of Brooke Astor, a pioneer of philanthropy and for decades a luminary of New York society. Hers is a story out of Edith Wharton. After a disastrous early marriage, Brooke Astor wedded the notoriously ill-tempered Vincent Astor, who died in 1959. In a highly publicized courtroom battle, Brooke fought off an attempt to break Vincent's will, which left some $67 million to the Vincent Astor Foundation. As the foundation's president, Brooke would use this legacy to benefit New York, where the Astor fortune had been made.Brooke would personally visit each grant applicant and charm anyone she met. At her one-hundredth birthday, princes and presidents honored her, but in 2006 a grandson petitioned the courts to have his father removed as Brooke's guardian. Once again an Astor court battle became the stuff of headlines. This biography—based on firsthand knowledge and interviews with Brooke's friends and the heads of New York's great cultural institutions—gives us back the woman so loved and admired, whose hands-on approach would inspire future philanthropists.
The New York Times
Until last summer's reports that Brooke Astor's son was keeping her on a shoestring budget in her Manhattan apartment, the widow of millionaire Vincent Astor was known as a society maven who doled out money to worthy causes. But in this enjoyable and flattering biography, former New Yorkereditor Kiernan, who knows Mrs. Astor personally, describes how the thrice-married woman was raised to be charming and agreeable, and learned her lessons well. Kiernan finds some detractors, who saw Astor's charm as manipulative and her agreeable nature as sugarcoating on a single-minded determination to advance her status. But even the negative comments have a positive spin. Responding to the theory that Astor married the ill-tempered and reclusive Vincent for money, Louis Auchincloss said, "I wouldn't respect her if she hadn't. Only a twisted person would have married him for love." Then again, it was an odd pairing, and not just because the matchmaker was Vincent's then-second wife, who allegedly wanted out and believed the way to obtain a generous settlement was to find "a suitable replacement." Tidbits like these add zip to Kiernan's affectionate portrait of the poet and writer who really made her mark when she took over her husband's philanthropic foundation. A portrait of the grande dame in decline, manipulated by her son is a poignant end to a grand saga. 16 pages of photos. (May 21)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author
A former editor at The New Yorker, Frances Kiernan is the author of Seeing Mary Plain: A Life of Mary McCarthy. She lives in New York City.
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