Synopses & Reviews
On a November day in 1895, crowds of curious sightseers gathered outside St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York, intent on spotting a small dapper bridegroom whom they knew to be a great English aristocrat awaiting his bride-to-be. When she arrived, twenty minutes late, anyone who caught a glimpse beneath Consuelo Vanderbilt's veil would have seen that her face was swollen from crying.
When Consuelo's grandfather died, he was the richest man in America. Her father soon started to spend the family fortune, enthusiastically supported by Consuelo's mother, Alva, who was determined to take the family to the top of New York society. She was adamant that her daughter should make a grand marriage, and the underfunded Duke of Marlborough was just the thing. It didn't matter that Consuelo loved someone else; as Alva once told her, "I don't ask you to think, I do the thinking, you do as you're told."
However, the story of Consuelo and Alva is not simply one of the emptiness of wealth, of the glamour of the Gilded Age, and of enterprising social ambition. This is a fascinating account of how two women struggled to break free from the deeply materialistic world into which they were born, taking up the fight for female equality. Consuelo threw herself into good works; Winston Churchill encouraged her to make her first public speech, and her social and political campaigns proved an antidote to loneliness. Alva embraced the militant suffragette movement in America, helping to bring the fight for the vote to its triumphant conclusion and campaigning vehemently for women's rights until she died. In this brilliant and engrossing book, Amanda Mackenzie Stuart suggests that behind the most famous transatlantic marriage of all lies an extraordinary tale of the quest for female power.
"In 1875, the strong-willed Alva Smith married an heir to the Vanderbilt fortune in order to save her own family from further descent into genteel poverty. Twenty years later, she compelled her daughter Consuelo into a loveless marriage to the ninth Duke of Marlborough, in order to provide her with a career rather than an empty life. Mother's and daughter's remarkably similar trajectories through life difficult first marriages, happy second ones, social leadership, arts patronage, a shift into activism were shaped by the opportunities wealth offered and the calculated use of marriage as a business transaction in their class and era. In her first book, Stuart uses a remarkable breadth of sources to follow her subjects to Newport, R.I.; India; late Victorian and Edwardian England; the heart of the women's movement; and the south of France at the outbreak of WWII She tells a riveting story but keeps her distance from her subjects, not offering final judgment on Alva's coercion of her daughter or allowing emotion to intrude on the deaths of major characters. Still, Alva and Consuelo emerge as unique and fascinating characters, and the details of their lives and times make a very entertaining read. Agent, Clare Alexander." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“A riveting story... Alva and Consuelo emerge as unique and fascinating characters... A very entertaining read.” Publishers Weekly
“Impeccably researched . . . Mackenzie Stuarts history marshals an impressive trove of primary documents.” The New Yorker
“Mackenzie Stuart has skillfully integrated a great deal of research... and she gives a rich sense of both women.” Washington Post Book World
“[A] deftly contextualized account.” Vogue
“Fascinating... A thoughtful portrait of two strong, well-educated women who were more than the measure of their extreme wealth.” Seattle Times
“Skilfully and sympathetically told. . . . Brilliant.” Antonia Fraser, The Times (London)
“An intimate look at two women whose lives reveal changing social patterns. Just fascinating.” USA Today
“highly readable, well constructed, novelish biography…a confident and compelling book.” Contemporary Review
“Compellingly readable… [Mackenzie Stuart] writes... with the eye of an accomplished historian and with profound sympathy for the central figures.” Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A saga of transatlantic maneuvers worthy of Henry James or Edith Wharton.” Kirkus Reviews
“Riveting . . . [An] excellent biography . . . Mackenzie Stuart narrates with an elegance equal to her subjects.” Francine du Plessix Gray, New York Times Book Review
“[A] fascinating dual biography.” Elle
“Astute. . . . A lively narrative. . . . Written with impressive verve and confidence.” Newsday
“Book lovers, Anglophiles and social historians alike will find much to please them in this fine, well-researched biography.” Virginian Pilot
is an exquisitely-rendered portrait of passion and privilege in the Gilded Age."
and#8212;Deborah Davis, author of Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X Demonstrating the same flare as in her previous biography, Zimmerman (The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune, and a Dynasty) pays respect to the lives and times of Edith Minturn Stokes and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes. Edith and Newton, as he was called, who married in 1895, were born in New York to immense privilege and became patrons of the arts and advocates for immigrant rights. The two knew each other as children and eventually fell in love. Newton, a respected architect in his own right, pulled together a massive multivolume documentary history, The Iconography of Manhattan Island, and Edith worked for many charitable organizations. Zimmerman chronicles their personal lives and love, from the heights of financial success to the depths of deteriorating health and wealth, while also encapsulating the era in which they lived. VERDICT With an impressive amount of research behind every page, Zimmerman manages to capture the sweeping drama of the turn of the century as well as the compelling story of a couple who knew how to love, fiercely. Her superb pacing and gripping narrative will appeal to all who enjoy history, biography, and real-life romance.--Library Journal
The colorful story of Alva and Consuelo Vanderbilt and their adventures on both sides of the Atlantic--in an age of callousness and ambition, material extravagance and excess--is told through their mother-daughter relationship and their mutual quest for self-determination in the glittering empty world of the Gilded Age.
The Gilded Age New York love storyand#160;of aand#160;beautiful heiress who fought forand#160; women's rights and a wealthy young architect, who were captured in the John Singer Sargent painting Mr. and Mrs. I.N. Phelps Stokes.
The New York love story of a beautiful heiress and a wealthy young architect, captured in a famous John Singer Sargent painting
In Love, Fiercely Jean Zimmerman re-creates the glittering world of Edith Minturn and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes. Contemporaries of the Astors and Vanderbilts, they grew up together along the shores of bucolic Staten Island, linked by privilegeand#8212;her grandparents built the worldand#8217;s fastest clipper ship, his family owned most of Murray Hill. Theirs was a world filled with mansions, balls, summer homes, and extended European vacations.
Newton became a passionate preserver of New York history and published the finest collection of Manhattan maps and views in a six-volume series. Edith became the face of the age when Daniel Chester French sculpted her for Chicagoand#8217;s Columbian Exposition, a colossus intended to match the Statue of Libertyand#8217;s grandeur. Together Edith and Newton battled on behalf of New Yorkand#8217;s poor and powerless as reformers who never themselves wanted for anything. Through it all, they sustained a strong-rooted marriage.
From the splendid cottages of the Berkshires to the salons of 1890s Paris, Love, Fiercely is the real story of a world long relegated to fiction.
About the Author
Jean Zimmerman is the author ofandnbsp;fourandnbsp;previous books, including The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune and a Dynasty. Sheandnbsp;earned an MFA in writing from the Columbia University School of the Arts and has published her poetry widely in literary magazines. She lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.
Table of Contents
Madison to the Riverand#160;34
The Howling Swelland#160;69
The Personal as the Politicaland#160;82
Rich and Romanticand#160;105
A Pleasure to Paint Her Portraitand#160;119
The American Girl Herselfand#160;136
For Richer or Poorerand#160;158
Silent Bearers of Many a Half-Read Messageand#160;205
A Fine Object Lesson in Good Constructionand#160;220
Something in the Nature of the Marvelousand#160;244
No Other City Will Live in the Future
as New York Willand#160;261