“Sepulchrally dismal, she was the three-dimensional equivalent of woe.”
My third memoir for the year, Wendy Burden’s Dead End Gene Pool is a dizzying ride through the lives of the ultra-rich descendants of Cornelius Vanderbilt, starting briefly with her grandparents’ antecedents, focussing for quite some time on Wendy’s childhood, which was heavily influenced by her paternal grandparents, and moving into her teenage and student years.
The first half of this book was highly comic – Wendy recounting the tales of her forebears, over-moneyed, over-sexed and often under-endowed with sanity. Similarly the stories of her early childhood, mostly revolving around her grandparents and their staff at the New York mansion. As Wendy grows older, though, the anecdotes get a bitter edge and the book becomes one of those ubiquitous misery memoirs of growing up with an alcoholic single parent. The grandparents become senile and sadly dependent, rather than amusing.
Memoirs are clearly a form of non-fiction that I am coming to enjoy, though – I very much enjoyed Sleeping Naked Is Green and The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance (when I wrote that review, I hoped I’d never have to write the title again. It seems to be following me).
Worth reading if you are interested in rich American people. Otherwise, there’s funnier material out there.