Back in November of last year, I mentioned that watching Downton Abbey inspired me to read To Marry an English Lord, by Gail MacColl and Carole Wallace. Well, this year, I was inspired to take this theme a few steps further.
What inspired me this year was learning about Consuelo and Alva: the Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart. I took it out of the library and learned more about Consuelo Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill Balsan than I’d ever known. The book was very, very interesting, but only in parts. Some readers prefer the parts about Alva and her burgeoning feminism, while others (yours truly included) prefer the parts about Consuelo and her life. I agree with the NY Times review that the book is “overlong but excellent” and I confess to having skimmed much of the last quarter of the book. I just didn’t find Alva’s story to be as intriguing as Consuelo’s and so I paid more attention to what interested me the most.
So, my latest foray into the world of American girls who married into the British aristocracy is Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers, the only Wharton book I’ve read that is not unrelentingly depressing. Wharton never finished it, and this edition was completed by a woman named Marion Mainwairing. I am about half way through and am enjoying it so far. Next up will be the 1995 adaptation of the novel starring mostly people I have never heard of, but we do get Mira Sorvino as Conchita, Connie Booth as Miss March and Greg Wise as Guy Thwaite.
As of right now, the last installment in this mini-project will be “The Glitter and the Gold,” which is Consuelo’s memoir. It was published in the 1950s, after she’d been happily married to Jacques Balsan for several decades. The book was re-published a few weeks ago (this is the edition linked above), and I purchased the Kindle edition in another effort to force myself to use the Kindle. I’ve had it a year now, and I still prefer real books.