Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach by Meryl Gordon
(Houghton Mifflin Co., 2008, 336 pages)
You can’t help but be intrigued by high society life, especially in New York City. After hearing all the drama and the legal proceedings surrounding Brooke Astor’s will and family, I was curious to get more information about what really happened. This book basically takes a look at Mrs. Astor’s final years and how her family reacted to her during this time. A great deal of time is spent analyzing her relationship with her son, Tony Marshall, who was accused of taking advantage of his mother, writing checks to himself, and weaseling his way into getting her to change her will in his favor.
Brooke Astor lived to be 105 years old. In her later years, as can be expected, she began to deteriorate and we learn that she was battling Alzheimer’s. This is when things started to go downhill as far as family relationships are concerned. Her grandson, Phillip, was clued in that drastic changes were going on in his grandmother’s world thanks to his father and step-mother, Charlene. Mrs. Astor was “forced” to make changes to her will, despite the fact that she wasn’t in a clear mental state. Items of hers were being sold and moved to other locations. Friends weren’t allowed to see her without asking permission from her son. Things just seemed fishy. That’s when Phillip made the decision to take action with Brooke’s longtime friend, Annette de la Renta. By doing so he effectively ended any hope of having a relationship with his father.
This was a depressing book to listen to because you just feel for the family as a whole. While I listened, on the one hand I could understand some of the things Mrs. Astor’s son was doing, but on the other hand you learned he did things like give himself a $2.4 million bonus and a raise (his mother paid him to manage her finances – consider that number when you learn that he had been making about $400K… quite the jump) and sold a famous painting of hers after telling her that she “needed the money.” This book gives us a behind the scenes look into the later years of Mrs. Astor and demonstrates just how much money and greed can influence people’s actions. Even when it comes to their own mother.
You get a little information about Brooke Astor’s background and the good deeds she did, but the focus of the book wasn’t to be a biography. It was to analyze the scandal. I’m curious to read more about her life.