Last Castle : The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home
by Kiernan, Denise

1 A Winter's Tale
2 A Lady of the Long Man Rising
3 Rhapsody in Mauve
4 Collaborations and Consecrations
5 A Crossing of Some Consequence
6 New Mistress
7 Forest for the Trees
8 Births of the Century
9 Trials and Toymakers
10 The More Things Change
11 High and Dry
12 Final Crossings
13 Washed Away
14 Homespun and a Great War
15 Freedoms and Flappers
16 Glimpse of a Castle
17 You Might Go Home Again
Notes and Sources309(56)

Documents the story of the Gilded Age mansion Biltmore, tracing George Vanderbilt's construction of his spectacular European-style estate with the help of two famed architects and the efforts of his bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, to become its mistress and protector in the face of changing fortunes and times.

From the Gilded Age to the present, Kiernan (The Girls of Atomic City, 2013) traces the history of Biltmore, the estate of George Vanderbilt in what was then the sleepy town of Asheville, North Carolina. At a leisurely pace, Kiernan follows the lives of both Vanderbilt fortune heir George and his future wife, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, who, after George's death in 1914 from a pulmonary embolism, dealt with Biltmore through WWI and the Depression. Kiernan lavishes attention not only on the house, made up of 250 rooms and covering four acres, but also on the forestry school designed to revive the over-logged landscape, the Arts and Crafts movement that grew up in Asheville under Edith's influence, and the many visitors to the estate, including Edith Wharton and Henry James. The story of the house, which now survives on the money of tourists, may not be suspenseful, but the many diverting detours Kiernan takes make the book enticing for even those who will never set foot on Biltmore grounds. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

The fortunes and misfortunes of the famous Vanderbilts.At the end of the 19th century, the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, was the biggest, grandest, most opulent home in America. Set on 125,000 acres, the 175,000-square-foot mansion contained 250 rooms, 43 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, 65 fireplaces, and a 72-foot-long banquet hall. Eight million bricks cloaked its 750-foot facade, and a massive dining table could seat more than 70 guests. Filled with art and sculpture, the house was the pride and obsession of George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862-1914), grandson of the shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. Biltmore House is the setting for Kiernan's (The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, 2013, etc.) family history, featuring George and his wife, Edith Dresser. Unfortunately, the house itself emerges as a livelier presence than its inhabitants. George was a mystery even to his best friend, who called him "col d-blooded," moody, and reticent. He enjoyed napping and reading. "You know I do not for a moment envy the position of GV," his friend noted. "He is not one speck as happy as I am, and the spending of money gives him absolutely no thrill." He seemed not interested in women, either, but at the age of 35, "America's richest bachelor" became engaged to Edith, the well-bred, though not wealthy, daughter of a noted New York family whose ancestors included Manhattan governor Peter Stuyvesant. Kiernan discloses little about their personalities and nothing about their courtship or relationship as husband and wife. She does chronicle their wedding, honeymoon, return to Asheville, and many other travels as well as the declining fortunes that made Biltmore an exceedingly expensive undertaking. Edith engaged in much charity work before and after George's sudden death. The couple had one child, but the author hardly looks at her relationship with her parents, focusing mostly on the family ' s financial woes, which became increasingly dire. One-dimensional characters undermine the potential drama of life within a castle. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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