If you’re looking for a gateway book to gain an interest in Newport, Rhode Island’s history, Deborah Davis’s Gilded is a great place to start.
Davis artfully weaves facts and nostalgia to illustrate the complex facade of Newport’s elite. She breathes life back into the Vanderbilts, Astors, Oelrichs and other prominent families whose legacies survive in their great “summer cottages” on Ocean Drive and Bellevue Avenue. Navigating the social olympics imposed by powerful women like Caroline Astor and Mamie Fish was what measured someone’s true worth according to their standards—regardless of how much money was seated in their deep, iron-clad purses.
I liked how the book also provides a brief insight to Newport, present day. It may be completely different, but the social circles in the City by the Sea do continue to have their dramas.
On a personal note, I couldn’t help but read several of the names mentioned in the Acknowledgments and smile. Even though Bettie Bearden Pardee’s name was spelled wrong, I’d like to point out that she has a fantastic blog and book about stylish Newport living, past and present.
Reading Gilded helped me gain a more solid understanding of a place I’ve grown to love so much—this certainly won’t be the last Newport-centric book I’ll read.