America has never had a royal family but the Vanderbilts come as close to it as this country has ever known. Our fascination with them is endless. So much so that many books, non-fiction and historical fiction, have been written about their history. But for famed CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, the story is personal. This is his family and now that he is a father, Cooper felt compelled to dig deep into the history of his ancestors to write this fascinating book along with novelist and historian Katherine Howe.
Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty takes us back to when Jan Aerstein van der Bilt came to New Netherland (New York State) from Holland. The book tells of the rise of Cornelius Vanderbilt (the Commodore) and his descendants including his son William, who took the family wealth to an even higher level. The family became consumed with spending and building their social stature. Cooper and Howe tell of the mansions, parties, marriages, most in pursuit of even more wealth, and affairs. And sadly, untimely deaths including suicides and a tragic loss on the ship Lusitania.
The sections devoted to Cooper’s mother are the most poignant. The story of Gloria Vanderbilt, the “poor little rich girl” has been widely told and you may recall the 1980s book and miniseries “Little Gloria… Happy at Last.” But this book gets to the truth in a way that only a son can tell, although his mother kept her traumatic past from him while he was growing up. While the Vanderbilt money was long gone once she grew up, Gloria made and lost her own fortunes several times over. Her successful jeans business gave the name Vanderbilt a whole new meaning in the 1970s.
If you enjoy the history of New York City, have an interest in learning more about the Vanderbilts or are simply a fan of Anderson Cooper, Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty is worth checking out. I read the book although I suspect it is even better listening to its narration in audio form by Cooper.
Rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.
Non-Fiction | History.
Publication Date: September 21, 2021.
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