Because I grew up back east and was familiar with old money families from tales I was intrigued by her life and this book covers all of that, the Oscar de la Renta's, the Rockefellers, Louis Auchincloss, the Kissingers, all the rich and famous and then some weave in and out of the memoir. Brooke was more than a strong character; she was demanding, an old biddy, someone who insisted being in control well beyond when she could be, and yet very generous financially to her pet to causes. Her best friend was the far younger, Annette de la Renta, who would try to rescue and defend the aged matriarch from the grip of the evil son, Tony Marshall Brooke's child from her first marriage to Dryden Kuser who became an alcoholic and whom she would divorce in 1930 in Reno. Her second marriage to Charles Marshall, from whom her son took his name, was successful and is commented on by Nancy Reagan as the love of Brooke's life but he died suddenly at only 50. Six months later in November 1952 Brooke married Vincent Astor, son of the John Jacob Astors who perished on the Titanic. Vincent who was moody and possessive but rich beyond statement died 5 1/2 years after they married, leaving her the famous surname and a trust fund of more than $60 million. Luxury became hers for life. She took that storied name and rebranded the Astor image to respect and glamour; she renovated the Astor Foundation and made it worthy of great pride. Meantime her son, Tony cowered always overshadowed by the strong dominant personality of his mother. He was enabled by her and dependent, achieving little in life on his own. At one point Brooke admits that she ruined him by indulging him and allowing him to not be accountable, bailing him out financially and not allowing him to grow up. I am surprised this has not become a bigger best seller because it is a sweeping saga of big time money and could challenge trite soap operas that dominate television like the Dallas series. .
The book references to how she maintained the image of elegance, always made up and dressed to the 9's of perfection to which she said particularly on charitable visits and events, "People expect to see Mrs. Astor and I shall not disappoint them." She was easily bored with people and rotated friends in and out of her circle often on whim. Still she was victim to the greed of her son, peculiar in itself as he was her only child and heir. Speculation is that perhaps his wife urged him on out of her own greed, but he had to agree. Brooke's tale is enriched and yet heartbreaking to learn that at the end, this wealthy woman was so restricted. It's paperback only 285 pages. An excellent investigative report and memoir by the author, Meryl Gordon.
On Page 229, "Discipline" a poem written by Brooke paints an overview of her tragic life,