I picked up The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin because it was suggested by Amazon after I bought the British TV series “Downton Abbey” on DVD. I had picked up Downton Abbey after Amazon suggested it after I bought a Moleskine notebook. Oh, the mystery of Amazon.
But The American Heiress (which was call My Last Duchess in the UK release) is a proper answer to Downton Abbey withdrawal. It lacks the Upstairs Downstairs aspects of the TV show in that the book really focuses on Cora Cash, supposedly the richest girl in the world. Yes, her name is actually Cash and she’s an American flour heiress. There is much less focus on the servants downstairs.
But what’s really beautiful about The American Heiress is how Goodwin describes the frivolity of the Guilded Age: the parties, the pearls, the French lace. And then, the loveless marriages, the secret affairs. It’s enough to make Gossip Girl seem relatively tame. At one point, Cora Cash reminisces with an old friend of parties where they rolled up cigarettes with $100 bills. She goes on to question if that was gaudy. Probably darling, but those were the times.
This is a deliciously girly read with outstanding attention to detail. What’s more, I actually found the heiress remarkably likeable. I wish I could say that about the American heiresses today.