Book Review: The Epic Tale of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home – The Last Castle

Biltmore Estate: A Tale of Love, Loss, and a Really Big House

Looking for a book that is as grandiose as the Biltmore Estate itself? Well, look no further because Denise Kiernan’s The Last Castle is the perfect choice for anyone who loves a good rags-to-riches story. But this is no ordinary story; it’s the true tale behind the largest private residence in North America and its role in shaping American history forever.

From the very first page, Kiernan plunges readers into the glamorous world of high society during the turn of the 20th century. Wealthy families from all over the country flocked to Newport, Rhode Island and Paris to see and be seen, but none were as recognizable as the Vanderbilts. George Vanderbilt was a bookish man who had a particular passion for European art, architecture, and culture, and had dreamt of creating a chateau in the United States that rivaled any of his beloved European estates.

But it wasn’t just George’s vision that made the Biltmore Estate so spectacular. He enlisted Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect responsible for designing Central Park, to tame the rugged North Carolina wilderness and create a picturesque backdrop for his chateau. And in Richard Morris Hunt, he found a renowned architect who could not only design the mansion itself but also incorporate George’s extensive collection of art and antiques from Europe.

But as they say, behind every great man is a woman who is even greater, and Edith Stuyvesant Dresser did not disappoint. Edith was a society darling who had grown up in Newport and Paris, and was thrilled when George proposed to her. But she quickly realized that being mistress of Biltmore would not be the glamorous life she had imagined. With a responsibility for overseeing the estate, the village beyond its gates, and the surrounding rural area, Edith found herself at the center of a business empire that was nearly three times the size of Washington, DC.

Kiernan masterfully weaves together the stories of the Vanderbilt family, their famous guests, and the estate workers to create a captivating narrative that spans almost 125 years of history. Rich with detail and vivid descriptions, you can almost feel the lush gardens, smell the damp soil, and taste the mouthwatering dishes from the estate’s kitchens.

But it’s not just the beauty and grandeur of the estate that makes this book so compelling; it’s the stories of the people who called it home. From F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, who found inspiration in the mansion’s opulence, to Teddy Roosevelt, who used the estate as a retreat during his presidency, to Edith Wharton, who celebrated the estate’s enduring legacy in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Age of Innocence, the Biltmore Estate has been a source of inspiration for generations.

And it’s not just a story of wealth and excess, but one of love, loyalty, and sacrifice. When changing times threatened the Vanderbilt fortune and their beloved estate, it was up to Edith to save Biltmore and secure its place in history.

Overall, The Last Castle is an engaging read that gives readers a glimpse into the lives of America’s elite during the Gilded Age, as well as the enduring legacy of one of the country’s most magnificent homes. Kiernan’s writing is both intimate and sweeping, transporting readers to a time and place where anything seems possible. So if you’re looking for a book that is both entertaining and educational, look no further than The Last Castle.
Don’t miss out on the insightful and entertaining journey that awaits you in this must-read book! Buy your own copy today or sign up for a 30-day free trial of Audible to experience the story come to life through the powerful voice of the narrator. Get started now and transform the way you see the world!
Price: $13.99
(as of Mar 27, 2023 14:54:56 UTC – Details)

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Category: Americas, Books, History
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