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The Glitter and the Gold

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  1,811 ratings  ·  219 reviews
A new edition of Consuela Vanderbilt Balsan's memoir—the story of the "real" Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey

  Consuelo Vanderbilt was young, beautiful, and heir to a vast fortune. She was also in love with an American suitor when her mother chose instead for her to marry an English Duke. She sailed to England as the Duchess of Marlborough in 1895 and took up residence in he
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Paperback, 284 pages
Published April 1st 1973 by George Mann Books (first published January 1st 1952)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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 ·  1,811 ratings  ·  219 reviews


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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
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Angie
Nov 11, 2014 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 writer ...more
❀⊱RoryReads⊰❀
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
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BAM the enigma
I'm a tad confused. In other books, I've read how absolutely miserable consuelo's marriage was, but there is no mud racking in this autobiography. Amazing how within a couple of generations spurned ex wives would so willingly spill their dirty laundry for all the works to read ...more
Claudia Banks
May 18, 2011 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
Lois is recovering slowly
Very readable and Consuelo is imminently likable.
The idle rich, creating so much poverty and pretending their social causes make more of difference than paying a fair wage would.
Sigh.
We are in the height of our own gilded age. I hope we treat those benefiting financially from huge societal inequalities marked worse than the robber barons.
Late stage capitalism is a bitch.
Reminds me again of why I loathe the suffragettes. 🗣Suffragettes were never feminist.
Pete Sharon
Jan 16, 2009 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 th ...more
Julie
Mar 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a forty-year-plus walk through history you could do worse than have Consuelo Vanderbilt as a guide and companion, with her warmth, humanity and innate optimism. Her narrative is engaging, full of observations on the vast number of famous people who crossed her path. She moved in the most elite circles, married against her will to the Duke of Marlborough, who was Winston Churchill’s cousin.

I’d long planned to read this book, having by coincidence come across Consuelo Vanderbilt on both sides
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Susan Amper
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
More glitter than gold, Consuelo leaves out most intimate details and instead fills her book with events and dinners with the glitterati including the Czar and Czarina of Russia, Queen Victoria, King George, and the Prince of Wales, and many others. Although these tales of dinners and balls can be interesting, they end up more of a list of social events than a look into Consuelo's life. The story becomes more heartfelt when she talks about her marriage to Jacques Balsan and her happy life in Fra ...more
Michelle
Mar 28, 2014 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. ...more
H.J. Moat
Sep 15, 2022 rated it it was ok
Real talk - I think Consuelo Vanderbilt seemed like a lovely lady who did a lot of good, and I wanted to read this because I'm on a binge of books around this era... but yikes was it a boring read.
Consuelo, as both a Vanderbilt and the Duchess of Marlborough, had such a dramatic and fascinating life, but this is in her own words and consequently she leaves all the juicy bits out.
I get it, a woman of her class and time would not want to air their dirty laundry in public but my god I wished she h
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Sarah Beth
This is Consuelo Vanderbilt's memoir, the tale of her life in her own words. Born in 1877, Consuelo was the great-granddaughter of Commodore Vanderbilt, the founding father of the wealth that made the family famous. Consuelo grew up in great luxury but with a rigid and authoritarian mother who achieved her crowning ambition for her daughter by marrying her off (against Consuelo's will) to the Duke of Marlborough. As Consuelo relates, the marriage was not a success from the beginning and ultimate ...more
 wade
Aug 19, 2012 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
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Gay
Sep 23, 2013 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. ...more
Chrystopher
Engaging, easy listen. Balsan is convinced every handsome man she ever met wanted to marry her at some point, which should be annoying but manages to be endearing instead. She mentions hanging out with Edith Wharton specifically, which was interesting.
Debra B
Oct 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an interesting life she lead!
Monica Lucas
Mar 05, 2022 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book so much as I have visited the Marble house as well as the Breakers many times and became fascinated by this family. However, sadly this book was almost 200+ pages of name dropping and stories about other people. I will give credit that the way events, clothing, and homes were described made me feel as if I was there seeing it with her.
Jack Robinson
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable and detailed book, Consuelo writes of her life up until she escapes Europe after the Nazis invade France during World War 2. Consuelo met everyone from the last Tsars of Russia and Queen Victoria to Bernard Shaw and J.M.Barrie! Her account tells of a different time that even when writing was aware had disappeared. Truly brilliant!
Jacquelynne DeOrnellas
May 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating tale of a wealthy heiress over hundred years ago. Her heart showed thru the pomp and pressure she endured. She did it with guts that I’m not sure I would have if put in her spot.
Loren Shultz
Mar 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
Didn’t finish. Didn’t like.
Kim
Dec 28, 2013 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'
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Linda
Jul 09, 2013 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 detail ...more
Lisa
Apr 07, 2015 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
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Kay
Aug 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Poor little Consuelo Vanderbilt. No, seriously, poor Consuelo. Her memoirs are not as riveting as I'd expected, but then she doesn't wallow in self pity the way I would if I had been subjected to a similar repressive upbringing. A fine addition to my collection of Gilded Age books and particularly interesting after having visited the Vanderbilt "cottages" in Newport. I'll have to read the flip side of the story, something about her mother Alva Vanderbilt, one of these days. ...more
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.
Louise
Mar 16, 2013 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. ...more
Erica Ryan
Aug 03, 2013 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. ...more
Armelle
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
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Anouska
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
I bought the book after visiting Blenheim Palace and was fascinated by the history. Unfortunately, although it is a great story the style of the writing in the book was very poor. I felt it was more a book of who's who then an insight into her personal thoughts and life. The story just goes from one party to another with no real detail or perspective. ...more
Daria
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is an interesting depiction of the life of the very rich at the start of the 20th Century. However, she is self righteous to the highest degree. The criticisms of anything she doesn't approve of get annoying. Many stories are told too fast and sound like a recital of facts rather than an interesting anecdote. I struggled to finish the book. ...more
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