Astor Orphan

Astor Orphan

A Memoir

Book - 2013
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Aldrich, a direct descendant of John Jacob Astor, tells the story of her eccentric, fractured family; her 1980s childhood of bohemian neglect in the squalid attic of Rokeby, the family's Hudson Valley Mansion; and her brave escape from the clan.
Publisher: New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2013]
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780062207937
Characteristics: x, 259 pages : illustrations, genealogy chart ; 22 cm
Call Number: B ALDRICH, A


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What a boring book, focused on the pathetic life of a 10 year old child born into an american family of 'property but no money'. Why she identifies herself as an aristocrat, I cannot comprehend. The family seem to be mentaly unstable lushes who take no responsiblity for their children or their society. There was nothing 'brave' in her escape from the clan, no one was holding her there. I think this book is her revenge on the family name. Get over yourself girl! The review by Parnassus [below] sums it up well. This book is hardly worth the paper on which it is published.

Jul 11, 2013

Another disfunctional family memoir - an enjoyable genre for me. This one reminded me of Michael Ondaatje's "Running in the Family", though not quite as good. The more eccentrics the better!

Jun 27, 2013

In a sentence, it was shallow and unconvincing. I cared little for the narrator's journey because little changed over the course of the book. It's easy to see that there's a follow up in the works, but I doubt I'll be bothered to read it. I'm not sure how much of a story she'll have to write anyway since this one spent so much time on the Family HIstory and Who's Who of Kooky Relatives and so little time on the emotional development of the narrator. I feel like I have very little idea of who Alexandra is and who she will become. In fiction, it's hard to care about a character when you don't know them (narratively speaking). When this happens in memoir or biography, which this book is, the book is a complete failure for the reader. Which is sad, because I felt that there was a genuinely good story to tell in here. Unfortunately, the author lacks the ability to really evoke the squalor she tries so hard to describe and does nothing with the people who form the background to her central drama of loss of innocence. She never connects us emotionally to the events or people around her that she seems to try and tell us are central to the formation of her identity. This is what memoir is supposed to do, and in this respect, the novel fails the reader. I've seen it mistakenly shelved in fiction; perhaps this is why. In full disclosure, I'm not in the best mood and this book really disappointed me. I just finished it, so this is kind of a knee-jerk reaction (however, I had the same thoughts at the midway point). Perhaps a more detailed review to come when I've gotten some distance and a better mood.

Spoiler: That great opening chapter that really hooks the reader with the terror of the dead goats? Yeah, never find out how they got there or what happened to them. This issue pretty much describes the rest of the book as well.


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