Sunday, 9 October 2011

Book Review: My Last Duchess - Daisy Goodwin

Synopsis - The evening of Cora Cash's masquerade ball, nothing has been left to chance.  Gorgeous, spirited and extravagantly rich, Cora is the closest thing New York society has to a princess.  Her mother has devised for her a debut that promises to be the most opulent of the gilded 1890's.

The ball is a prelude to a campaign that will see her mother whisk Cora to Europe.  Mrs Cash wants nothing less than a title for her daughter, and in England, impoverished blue-bloods are queuing up for introductions to American heiresses - and seem content to overlook the sometimes lowly origins of their fortunes.

Cora makes a dazzling impression, but the English aristocracy is a realm fraught with arcane rules and pitfalls, where there are those less than eager to welcome a wealthy outsider.  When she loses her heart to a man she barely knows, Cora soon realises that she is playing a game she does not fully understand, and that her future happiness is the prize.

Review - A debut novel from Daisy Goodwin.  A showy story set in the world of diamonds, pearls and tiaras but also showing the real world of the 19th century aristocracy on both sides of the Atlantic.  You would think that being rich would be a dream come true but to the New York wealthy it is not as simple.  Cora's family had 'new' wealth made from the flour mills that Cora's grandfather had so successfully built up.  However, Mrs Cash's ambitions to be accepted by 'older' members of the aristocracy like the Astors were proving extremely difficult.  Even the wealthy held prejudices against each other!

When Mrs Cash brings her daughter to England to introduce her into the world of Lords and Ladies, they find another world entirely.  The British who are no longer as rich as they would wish, find themselves looking to gain financially through marriage to the new wealthy Americans.  Of course, the British aristocracy are so set in their ways, it is completely alien to Cora - even the servants have their peculiar little ways.

A brilliant depiction of the jealous, conniving, scheming and duplicitous world of the aristocrats.  Know your place!  I am sure that some of what went on in the late 1890's still goes on today.  Take a look at the Royal family - you could almost draw some comparisons with the Charles and Diana story.  4*

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