Thoughts : How Newport Became America’s Richest Resort by Deborah Davis, John Wiley & Sons 2009, 309 pages
Bookblurb from goodreads:
A beautifully written history of high society in Newport, Rhode Island, from the acclaimed author of Party of the Century. Newport is the legendary and beautiful home of American aristocracy and the sheltered super-rich. Many of the country’s most famous blueblood families – the closest thing we have to royalty – have lived and summered in Newport since the nineteenth century. The Astors, the Vanderbilts, Edith Wharton, JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Doris Duke, and Claus and Sunny von Bulow are just a few of the many names who have called the city home. Gilded takes you along as you explore the fascinating heritage of the Newport elite, from its first colonists to the newest of its new millennium millionaires, showing the evolution of a town intent on living in its own world. Through a narrative filled with engrossing characters and lively tales of untold extravagance, Davis brings the resort to life and uncovers the difference between rich and Newport rich along the way.
WHY I read this: I was SO looking forward to walking to the Island Book Store in Newport because I like independent bookstores and I knew exactly which book I would buy once I got there: Newport by Jill Morrow (pub’d in July) but AGHAST! They didn’t have it! So, the wonderful staff suggested I read Gilded instead. Thinking that I hadn’t read any nonfiction in too long, I bought it.
The private beach for the richest of the set.
What’s it ABOUT: The description above is right on. It mentions everyone who is everyone and also discusses the decades since the real hey-days when the mansions were being built and even shares about the ‘current’ Newportians (well, to pub date). I didn’t know much about the Tennis Club nor how the Jazz Festival got its start, so I learned alot! I have read a couple of books on the Vanderbilts but not much else outside of the sphere of the mansion-tour-brochures. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit any more mansions on this latest trip but I WILL! I will – next time. I love Newport.
Current goings-on… You all know who Larry Ellison is, right? Oracle Computers? He bought the Beechwood Mansion and seems to be TOTALLY restoring the thing! I was told that he is having to LIFT it and pour a new foundation.
And who among you has an Alex & Ani bracelet? I sadly did not even venture into their flagship store but supposedly they (the fam) is busy restoring Belcourt Castle (first built as a bachelor pad for a rich dude and his horses but then he married Alva Vanderbilt after her divorce blahblahblah…). I didn’t take any photos of this apparently – hard to do when walking two energetic dogs.
What’s GOOD: OK, I really am NOT much of a follower of the now rich and famous (probably because they are good at hiding and I don’t watch much TV so I miss a lot) but I really am glad that they (the oldies) built some amazing buildings and that Newport is sharing them with us. I can’t help it! I love beautiful amazing buildings.
The home of Doris Duke.
Sidenote: Just watched the movie Into the Storm with Brendan Gleeson as Winston Churchill and if you know anything about that guy, you know his mom was American. But it was a cousin of his that had to marry a Vanderbilt in order to get the money to restore (aka “save from ruin”) Blenheim PALACE! Crazy wild stuff – the aristocracy of Britain and THEIR amazing architectural treasures. I found it all so very freaking fascinating, I do.
What’s NOT so good: Not enough photos in the book! and it jumps around a bit, I got confused who was who and when more times than I can count, but still a fun read.
FINALLY: If you ask me if I could go back in history, I would love to be one of the best friends – thus in the same social class but not quite always in the papers – with this crowd in the late 1800s, through the turn of the century and and into the roaring 20s. Travel! Champagne! Excess to the excess! Parties parties parties! ah… Would have LOVED to have seen it. In other words, don’t send me back to that time period to be a scullery maid.
RATING: Four slices of pie. (no pie was mentioned as far as I managed to note, anyway.)
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