Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin (audio)

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

"Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms (who isn't?) will find an instant tonic in Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress. The story of Cora Cash, an American heiress in the 1890s who bags an English duke, this is a deliciously evocative first novel that lingers in the mind." --Allison Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of I Don’t Know How She Does It and I Think I Love YouBe careful what you wish for. Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

Witty, moving, and brilliantly entertaining, Cora’s story marks the debut of a glorious storyteller who brings a fresh new spirit to the world of Edith Wharton and Henry James.

"For daughters of the new American billionaires of the 19th century, it was the ultimate deal: marriage to a cash-strapped British Aristocrat in return for a title and social status. But money didn’t always buy them happiness." --Daisy Goodwin in The Daily Mail
The American Heiress was originally sold and distributed in the UK as My Last Duchess.

My thoughts:
I listened to this audio book last week.  I wasn't sure about the narrator at first, she made some of the characters, particularly Cora's mother, hard to like with their disdainful tone, but I think these characters would have been hard to like even reading them from the page.

Cora is a beautiful 19 year old who has plenty of money in her own right.  Her mother is determined to see her marry well and hopes to find her a title in Europe.  At first things are not going as planned, but a true accident sets things in motion that end, or in another sense begins, with her marriage to the Duke of Wareham.  Being a Duchess is harder than it seems, and it can be hard for Cora to know who to trust and who is waiting for her next faux pas. 

I've never seen Downton Abbey, but it did remind me of a movie I saw some years ago in regards to how the servants were treated and what they were expected to do and not do.  Cora brings along her own maid when she moves to England.  Her maid faces some of the same issues with fitting in and knowing what is expected of her by the rest of the household.

I wasn't sure if I was going to like Cora at first.  She seemed a bit spoiled and self centered, but as she grew and learned and faced society as the new Duchess of Wareham I found myself liking her more and more.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312658663
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/27/2012
  • Pages: 496

Meet the Author

DAISY GOODWIN, a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University’s film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, is a leading television producer in the U.K. Her poetry anthologies, including 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life, have introduced many new readers to the pleasures of poetry, and she was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. She and her husband, an ABC TV executive, have two daughters and live in London. The American Heiress is her first novel.

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