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The Glitter and the Gold

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  910 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
This is the fascinating story of the American heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt, who married the ninth Duke of Marlborough for anything but love in 1895. A very human story told with candor and objectivity. It will keep your interest from the first page to the last. Everybody who was anybody can be seen in these pages. From artists and writers to statesmen of the world - view ...more
Paperback, 284 pages
Published April 1st 1973 by George Mann Books (first published January 1st 1952)
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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroThe House at Riverton by Kate MortonBrideshead Revisited by Evelyn WaughA Room with a View by E.M. ForsterHowards End by E.M. Forster
Downton Abbey-esque Books
56th out of 510 books — 914 voters
The Age of Innocence by Edith WhartonThe American Heiress by Daisy GoodwinThe Tea Rose by Jennifer DonnellyThe Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt BalsanA Season of Splendor by Greg King
Gilded Age Literature
4th out of 109 books — 38 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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❀Rory❀
This was a fascinating look at how the 1% lived at the turn of the twentieth century, including an interesting description of Winston Churchill as a young man.

Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan was the American born wife of the 9th Duke of Marlborough. She was a member of the immensely rich Vanderbilt family and her cruel and ambitious mother arranged her marriage to an English duke who needed money to repair his house and pay his bills. An intelligent, well meaning, and kind lady, Consuelo did a great
...more
Claudia Banks
Jun 11, 2011 Claudia Banks rated it really liked it
Consuelo Vanderbilt had an amazing life. The Glitter and the Gold gives a look into the days of one of the most famous women of American and English turn of the century aristocracy. Even though she grew up in some of the most famous houses on Fifth Avenue, Newport (RI) and England, her childhood was a sad one. She had the misfortune of having Alva Vanderbilt as her mother. Alva was a strong, selfish and ruthless mother. In fact, she locked away Consuelo and kept her prisoner until she agreed to ...more
Angie
Nov 24, 2014 Angie rated it really liked it
I've seen this book and its author take some rather harsh, and I believe unwarranted, criticism. Granted, I have a particular interest in the history of the Vanderbilts and this is the fourth or fifth book I've read involving their legacy, so I was already familiar with some of what Mrs. Balsan relates here. However, referring to her as "snobbish" simply because of her use of formal English and rather common French idioms says more about the would-be "critic" rather than any hubris of the ...more
 wade
Aug 24, 2012 wade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am totally conflicted about this book. It is republished from the original in 1953. It is the autobiography of most of the life of a woman whose family is partial heirs to the Cornelius Vanderbilt fortune. At age 17 Consuelo has an arranged marriage to the Duke of Marlborough in England. It has been reprinted because of the success of the Downton Abbey series on PBS.
What I liked was the incite into the heads to the very, very wealthy of the late 1800's and early 1900's. You meet royalty and i
...more
Linda Lipko
Oh, poor little Consuelo! When reading this book, I didn't know if I should throw it against the wall, or simply muddle through to see if there were any redeeming qualities about poor little rich girl. Alas, I found none!

Self absorbed, she pats herself on the back for dividing the food in the tins given to the poor. Others, she notes, simple through all the left over food in the container mixing it all together. This indeed, was her claim to fame.

Of course, she hated her domineering mother who
...more
Pete Sharon
Apr 17, 2009 Pete Sharon rated it it was ok
I think I'd enjoy a third person biography of Consuelo Vanderbilt-- I get the sense that there's a lot more to the story than she herself presents it. Fun for fans of the gilded age, but for the most part not too exciting: the frivolity of the London season is so tiring; weekend hunting parties at Blenheim palace are ever so tiring for the hostess; etc. Then, in the last twenty pages, the story becomes completely and unexpectedly gripping as the author and her husband are trying to get out of ...more
Kim
Jan 01, 2014 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful "sleeper" book! I say sleeper because when I purchased this, I didn't expect more than the shallow musings of a life spent attending and giving parties. I was wrong! This American Duchess whom I had never heard of, led an adventurous life . Through her wealth and altruistic nature she undoubtedly affected future generations for the better.

She lived through significant historical changes, from circulating in royal circles during the reign of Queen Victoria, to championing women'
...more
Linda
Jul 09, 2013 Linda rated it liked it
Consuelo Vanderbilt's memoir tells the story of a famed trans-Atlantic marriage where the wealthy bride was sold to the bidder with the best title, the 9th Duke of Marlborough. The bride was famously locked in her room in the weeks before the wedding. This is a fascinating look at the world of titled European families in the last years of the 19th century up to the beginning of WWII. For those with money it seemed to be world of snobbery, ridgid hierarchy, obsessive attention to pointless ...more
Judy
On PBS.org, Jessica Fellowes wrote about Downtown Abbey: "Americans may have picked up on the reference to the Marlboroughs –the marriage, or rather, divorce, between Consuelo Vanderbilt and the Duke of Marlborough. You can read more in her her autobiography, The Glitter and the Gold – it is a gripping tale of an unhappy marriage in the Edwardian era." This prompted me to borrow The Glitter and the Gold from the library; I quickly learned how realistic the BBC series is about American and ...more
Lisa
Apr 07, 2015 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: wackynonfiction
I would have given this book 5 stars, but I found out while reading that it was ghost written, and not fully by the author. I was very impressed by the writing and the matter-of-fact descriptions of a sometimes depressing childhood and early marriage of an American heiress who becomes the Duchess of Marlborough, has her obligatory two male heirs and then finds true love with a Frenchman.

The biography/memoir is beautifully written and my love for stories like Wharton's The Buccaneers makes me wan
...more
Louise
Mar 16, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book. As a Downton Abbey fan, I found the real life goings on of Consuelo Vanderbilt very intriguing. I'm mystified that there weren't more beheadings. Actually I'm surprised that we aren't still beheading people today. The flagrant unfair distribution of the wealth and disregard for our fellow man is sickening no matter which century it occurs. Consuelo did a very good job of retelling her life. I'm impressed. This book gets an 8 on my 10 scale.
Angie
I won this book in a Goodreads First/Reads giveaway.

I think I would enjoy a third person biography better. I get the sense that there is more to the story than what she herself presents. I also found the need to google her to read more about the people she was talking about since she tends to not use names. (i.e. “Marlborough” in place of “Charles”) But it is a good story and quite interesting for those interested in the gilded age.
Gay Dorsey
Sep 23, 2013 Gay Dorsey rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
Interesting story written in a most uninteresting way. Consuelo Vanderbilt had an amazing life: raised with unlimited money by an evil, social-climbing mother, married off when young to the Duke of Marlborough, living a life as duchess in a Downton-Abbey-style castle, traveling the world, later (finally) divorcing and going on to be a great philanthropist and women's rights activist. But not a writer, sadly. The book was a snore.
Erica Ryan
Aug 03, 2013 Erica Ryan rated it really liked it
I read this book a couple of years ago after visiting Biltmore (Consuelo's uncle's home in North Carolina), but I wanted to revisit it after reading To Marry An English Lord and understanding more about the time period and society that Consuelo lived in. I found it even more fascinating the second time around! If you are interested in the Gilded Age and the British aristocracy at the turn of the last century, this is a treat.
Michelle
Apr 25, 2014 Michelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can truly say this book has beaten me. It's a rare thing for me to completely give up halfway through a book but this one takes the cake. It has officially bored me to death.
Mary
Nov 30, 2016 Mary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookbuddies
Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan lead a very interesting life....however, her story was told in a very dull manner. Unfortunately I recommended this book for my book club otherwise I would not have bothered to finish it.
Donna Winters
Jun 05, 2013 Donna Winters rated it it was amazing
The Glitter and the Gold
Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, Harper and Brothers Publishers, copyright 1952

This autobiography of the granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt chronicles the life of a daughter of fortune born in 1877 to William K. Vanderbilt of the New York Central Railroad empire.

Consuelo describes her father as having a happy nature and disliking strife. Speaking of her mother, she tells of a woman with towering ambition, one who is combative and domineering. She once told Consuelo, “I don’
...more
Junemarie Brandt
Sep 01, 2015 Junemarie Brandt rated it liked it
I had wanted to read this book for over 30 years, since I first beheld the Sargent portrait of Consuelo as Duchess of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace. Over the years I had found out more about her mother's determination to buy a title for her daughter as well of tales of the other "Dollar Princesses" that married into the British aristocracy, bringing their fortunes with them. With the popularity of "Downton Abbey" the book was re-released, and I scooped it up in the gift shop of Marble House, ...more
QNPoohBear
Consuelo Vanderbilt was the great-granddaughter of Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt and daughter of Alva Erskine (Smith) (Vanderbilt) Belmont. Conseulo grew up in luxury in New York and Newport, raised in the traditional Victorian tradition with nannies and governesses. Lunch was spent with her formiddable Francophile mother sitting at a gothic dining table conversing in French. Holidays were spent on the family yacht crusing to Europe. All that and Conseulo was unhappy. She had a simple ...more
Armelle
Sep 18, 2016 Armelle rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
Consuelo Vanderbilt never meant this to be a personal memoir, but a picture of a time and place. The result is a nearly endless recital of who showed up at which dinner party - name after name after name.

There are a few interesting nuggets when she describes her early life, and the last chapter - when she's on the run from the Nazis in occupied France - is very interesting, but the rest of it is an interminable slog.
Lynne-marie
May 12, 2009 Lynne-marie rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathy
Nov 05, 2007 Kathy rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
Interesting after visiting Blenheim Palace. Consuelo was an heiress to the Vanderbilt fortune. Her mother forced her into a marriage in the English aristocracy for the prestige. She was literally locked in her room and not allowed contact with the outside world. This was before telephones etc. and they had many servants with strict orders to watch her. The Duke of Marlborough wasn’t in love with her and vice versa but her money helped maintain his palace. After many years of unhappy marriage and ...more
Carolyn Payne
Sep 08, 2016 Carolyn Payne rated it it was ok
Tedious. I was hoping for insight into a different era. Poorly written, rambling thoughts that switch topics, times, etc mid-paragraph.
Jennifer
Consuelo Vanderbilt was part of the later wave of wealthy American debutantes who married English titles. Still in her teens, she married, against her wishes, the Duke of Marlborough in 1895, and was witness to the major events of the first half of the 20th century.

Her memoir, however, lacks the candor that would have made it fascinating to the modern reader. She is very discrete in speaking of her family, which is admirable, but not interesting. Although she is frank about having been forced in
...more
Tabitha Sprague
May 17, 2016 Tabitha Sprague rated it really liked it
Fascinating insight into the life of Consuelo Vanderbilt, an American heiress married off against her will to the Duke of Marlborough. Vanderbilt is candid about her life, as much as was socially possible for a woman in her position, especially with regards to her horrible childhood. I especially enjoyed the parts where she highlighted her interaction with the British Royal family, and her travels to meet the last Tsar of Russia. Keep in mind that this was (ghost)written by Consuelo, so the ...more
Michael Harling
What could have been a fascinating peek into a privileged and ephemeral era became, instead, a mundane recitation of parties attended, a catalogue of dresses and jewellery and an unending array of dropped names (although, to be fair, she does have some heavy-hitting names to drop: "Had an audience with the Queen, I do so like her daughter Victoria but her majesty herself can be quite severe, but then I chatted with Winston and he is ever so gay..." (I am paraphrasing, but that's the gist of the ...more
Amanda
Sep 07, 2012 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Consuelo brought a great light onto the duchesses of her time. I loved how she captured the feelings and thoughts she had and drew me closer into feeling I was her. Knowing the difficult times she went thru and the triumphs she felt gave me a great pleasure in reading this. It seems like society was definitely way different when she was growing up and how it manifested to how it is today.

I loved how even though she was considered nobility, she was always down to earth and helped out when she cou
...more
Linda
Feb 13, 2013 Linda rated it really liked it
Enthralled with Downton Abbey, I heard about this book written in 1953 by real American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, and thought I'd get a first-hand account of her experience, marrying the Duke of Marlborough in 1895. I found it to be a very interesting story with some surprises and many insights about the gilded age. Consuelo was a great beauty who brought over $60 million (by today's standards) to her English husband and his family in a loveless marriage forced on her by her mother. ...more
Megan
Mar 26, 2015 Megan rated it liked it
This book makes for an interesting look back at a particular time and class. Balsan cones across as a perfectly nice person, actually. Her complaints are largely to do in her early life with her domineering mother and distant, unsuited husband - problems that have little to do with one's socioeconomic class. Moreover, her complaints were often tactful to the point of vagueness. The book's main drawback is that it is very impersonal. While we get interesting snapshots of the past, I don't feel ...more
Gaile
Apr 09, 2013 Gaile rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan writes about her life from her childhood to her forcible marriage to the Duke Of Marlborough, the separation and divorce, her work during WWI, her second marriage to Jacques Balsan and her life until the outbreak of WWII leads them to sought refuge in her native America. Bogged down in red tape and long lines, at last they successfully take ship to the United States.
I find these ver interesting until about the middle part when I began to get bored. After that it was qu
...more
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  • Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age
  • A Season of Splendor: The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York
  • The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy
  • The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm
  • Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant
  • Life Below Stairs: in the Victorian and Edwardian Country House
  • The Edwardians
  • The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters
  • Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor
  • The Last Summer
  • The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago
  • Gilded: How Newport Became America's Richest Resort
  • To Marry an English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started
  • Archie and Amelie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age
  • Aristocrats: Power, Grace, and Decadence: Britain's Great Ruling Classes from 1066 to the Present
  • What the Butler Winked At: Being the Life and Adventures of Eric Horne, Butler
  • The Buccaneers
  • The Vanderbilts

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“It is a melancholy fact that childhood, so short when compared with the average span of life, should exert such a strong and permanent influence on character that no amount of self-training afterwards can ever completely counter it.” 1 likes
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