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Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Mother and a Daughter in the 'Gilded Age' [Paperback]

Amanda Mackenzie Stuart
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: £16.99
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Book Description

4 Oct 2010

A fabulously wealthy New York beauty marries a cold-hearted British aristocrat at the behest of her Machiavellian mother – then leaves him to become a prominent Suffragette.

Consuelo Vanderbilt was one of the greatest heiresses of the late 19th-century, a glittering prize for suitors on both sides of the Atlantic. When she married, a crowd of over 2,000 onlookers gathered, and newspapers frenziedly reported every detail of the event, right down to the bridal underwear. Even by the standards of the day the glamorous, eighteen-year-old had made an outstanding match: she had ensnared the twenty-four-year-old Duke of Marlborough, the most eligible peer in Great Britain.

Yet the bride’s swollen face, barely hidden under the veil, presaged the unhappiness that lay in the couple’s painful twelve-year future. It was not Consuelo, but her domineering mother who had forced the marriage through. This captivating biography tells of the lives of mother and daughter: the story of the fairytale wedding and its nightmarish aftermath, and an account of how both women went on to dedicate their lives to the dramatic fight for women’s rights, in the light of their own suffering.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; (Reissue) edition (4 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007127316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007127313
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.4 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 364,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘Skilfully and sympathetically told by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart…It is brilliant…Mackenzie Stuart has treated us to some marvellous vignettes of life at Blenheim in the “Gilded Age”.’ Antonia Fraser, The Times

‘A dual life story that reads as pleasurably as the best fiction but with all the intelligence of a first-rate biography…completely absorbing.’ Amanda Foreman

‘It moves, entertains and intrigues.’ Independent on Sunday

‘[…]an intelligent, insightful and highly readable book about the gilded cage of aristocratic marriage.’ Daily Mail

‘The story of Consuelo and Alva has everything: glamour, money, gossip, intrigue and pathos.’ Harpers & Queen

About the Author

Amanda Mackenzie Stuart was born in Edinburgh in 1954. A graduate of the National Film and Television School, she spent the first part of her career as a scientific filmmaker before joining Renegade Films in 1992.
Screenwriting projects include a television mini-series adapted from Divided Loyalties by Janet Teissier du Cros and 'Number the Stars' by Lois Lowry. Her musical biography of Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields was produced by HMR Productions at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1999 starring singer Morag Maclaren. She also co-wrote and co-produced Khaled El Hagar's 'Room to Rent' released in 2000, starring Rupert Graves, Juliette Lewis and Anna Massey.
‘Consuelo and Alva’ is her first book.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Glimpse Into the Gilded Age 19 Mar 2007
'Consuelo and Alva' is a fascinating double biography of Consuelo Vanderbilt the American Heiress who married into the English Aristocracy and became the Duchess of Marlborough and her mother Alva, the motivating force behind what was a very unhappy marriage. Starting in the USA where Alva Vanderbilt is desperate to become one of the elite '400' in American society, Mackenzie Stuart shows the snobbery and social boundaries one had to overcome if one was from 'new money.' A way of elevating oneself in New York society was to secure a title in England and in 1895 Alva did just that when she married her daughter Consuelo off at eighteen to the Duke of Marlborough.

Mackenzie Stuart provides a sympathetic view of both Alva and Consuelo and shows the misery of the Duchess' marriage without sacrificing the character of her equally unhappy husband, the Duke. It is hard to portray someone as pushy and manipulative as Alva as at all sympathetic but if Mackenzie Stuart can't make her likeable she presents her as a fascinating force, fully dictating her daughter's life and then throwing her untiring energy behind the suffarage cause in later life.

The book being a double biography helps to understand both these women, their motives and their lifestyles fully.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like walking through syrup 17 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Maybe it's me but I find this trying to be more of a dissertaion submission about Social behaviour at the turn of the previous century .I think it is maybe that I am not high brow enough for the book .What I really wanted was a 'story ' not a book where I have to really take notice of every point so that I can mentally refer back to it .The author is clearly a very learned woman who has great skill at collating and sorting information but it feels like she is frightened of being accused of not writing a 'learned ' piece of work and is reluctant to fall into what she might see as ' common gossip ' .It seems that every event she describes has to be analysed and scrutinised before she moves onto the next event .Quite frankly , and this is my failing and not hers , I pick up my Kindle reluctantly - like I feel I must read it every night , rather than WANT to read it .I normally , in a paper book , flick to the photographs when I lose the thread of the text , but haven't mastered the 'flicking ' art on my Kindle yet . To be fair ,I have now got a good feel for Alva Vanderbilt's persona and am persevering to get to Consuelo.It has been interesting in the whole to be fair . Maybe I should just accept my own failings and stick to less ambitious works .
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - Loved it ! 25 Jun 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, not only for the insight into the lives of the Vanderbilts but also for the involement they had with the "Womens Rights" movements back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I was not aware of the American contribution to this cause.
I loved the detail of the various places they lived in, in America, France and England and what became of them and the insight into the changing era of the very rich in the 20th century. A definate "Must read" for anyone interested in social history.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Recently went to a lecture on these ladies and I wanted to know more. This book didn't disappoint so give it a try.
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