The Astor Orphan: A Memoir

The Astor Orphan: A Memoir

by Alexandra Aldrich


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The Astor Orphan is an unflinching debut memoir by a direct descendant of John Jacob Astor, Alexandra Aldrich.

She brilliantly tells the story of her eccentric, fractured family; her 1980s childhood of bohemian neglect in the squalid attic of Rokeby, the family’s Hudson Valley Mansion; and her brave escape from the clan. Aldrich reaches back to the Gilded Age when the Astor legacy began to come undone, leaving the Aldrich branch of the family penniless and squabbling over what was left.

Illustrated with black-and-white photographs that bring this faded world into focus, The Astor Orphan is written with the grit of The Glass Castle and set amid the aristocratic decay of Grey Gardens.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062207951
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/08/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 1,099,665
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

About the Author

Alexandra Aldrich lived at Rokeby, the house at the heart of this story, until she left to attend boarding school at the age of fourteen. She later moved to Poland, where she studied violin and history, and then back to the United States, where she taught high school English and converted to Orthodox Judaism.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Prologue 1

Part 1 Rokeby Dreams

1 The Legacy 7

2 Guards of Order 11

3 The Mentor 19

4 Venison Stew 31

5 The Conference 41

6 A Meticulous Record 47

Part 2 Elements of Disorder

7 Sunday Mornings 59

8 The Outlaw 71

9 Past Perfect 81

Part 3 Artists and Drifters

10 The Irregulars 95

11 A Seed is Planted 109

Part 4 All in a Summer's Plunder

12 A Parallel Universe 119

13 An Imported Order 127

14 Repossessed 135

15 Indisputable 139

16 Animal Wars 147

17 A Manly Endeavor 157

18 Like Proper Aristocrats 167

Part 5 Other Exiles

19 Home and Away 179

20 Migrations 191

21 Practically Orphans 197

22 Into the Mouth of Hell 205

23 A Dream Fulfilled 215

Part 6 In Search of Self

24 Blending in 229

25 Interviewed 241

26 The Elusive Edge 247

Acknowledgments 259

What People are Saying About This

Elliott Holt

“Evocative. . . . Aldrich astutely portrays a colorful cast of aunts, uncles, cousins and hangers-on—clinging to the family legacy long after the money is gone. One can’t help but cheer as she breaks away from the others to make a name for herself.”

Jennifer Vanderbes

“A beautifully-rendered family saga—full of fires, affairs, aristocrats and illegitimate children. At the center is an endearing heroine, whose eccentric childhood on the Grey Gardens-style Rokeby estate would make Dickens gasp. . . . Splendid.”

Susannah Cahalan

“It’s the highest of compliments to say that a memoir reads like fiction, and Alexandra Aldrich accomplishes this in her phenomenal debut. With swift, haunting prose, she breathes new life into the Astor clan.”

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The Astor Orphan: A Memoir 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This well written and both sad and at times funny. It is really surprising to learn about a family of "former" great wealth living like hoaders. The author writes of her childhood wth little parental support. It shows a selfishness of wanting to live off others. This was worth the money, and I hope to read more from the author. Another great book on the Nook is the novel "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. It is based on facts during World War II. Both books deserve A++++++
Debra60 More than 1 year ago
You couldn't make these characters up!  The aloof Polish mother, the unkempt Harvard educated Father , t the Grandmother who is Alex's saving grace (when she's not drunk), the cousins, the hanger-oner's all  together in the decaying, once grand Astor home. I'm in love with this crazy family (since I didn't have to reside there) and can't wait for Alex to bring us up to date in her next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would have like more details. The book just stops when she goes off to school.
ShadyKay More than 1 year ago
Interesting life..I wonder what happened after the last page. There were so many relatives and ancestors to keep track of, though. A family tree would have been great. Nothing extensive..but something to put this in order.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed her unique style and her lightness despite describing her uneasy childhood. I am looking forward for her future books or novels. She is a talented writer with a unique voice.
Anonymous 14 hours ago
I wish the photos had the names of the subject/s.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting read
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't read this book yet, but enjoy its many reviews and wonder if this author, and brave woman, has written any other books. I hope so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Takes a shower, drys off and leaves.