The Mansions of Newport, Rhode Island: Background information when reading The American Heiress

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The American Heiress

A Novel

by Daisy Goodwin

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Mar 2012, 496 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Mansions of Newport, Rhode Island

Print Review

During the Gilded Age (1865-1914), America experienced a boom in railroad tycoons and oil barons, and a great deal of wealth was concentrated in the real estate of Newport, Rhode Island. Wealthy families like the Vanderbilts and Astors flocked to Newport each summer, and as their appreciation for the New England coast grew, they built opulent mansions that were affectionately referred to as summer "cottages." These stately homes are immortalized in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, from which Daisy Goodwin draws inspiration for The American Heiress.

Rhode Island map Many of the Newport mansions are constructed from imported Italian marble and are designed in the Beaux-Arts style (named after the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where it was taught), which features grandiose architectural structures, ornate decorative detailing, and large stairways, arches and balconies. Beaux-Arts architecture was heavily influenced by the French Châteauesque style, inspired by country homes built during the Renaissance in France. Richard Morris Hunt, the designer of The Breakers (a Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, pictured below left), was responsible for popularizing this type of architectural design in the United States in the late 1800s.

The Breakers Marble House Kingscote
The Breakers The Marble House Kingscote

The Gilded Age preference for ostentatious art and architecture is often thought to be demonstrative of Thorstein Veblen's theory of "conspicuous consumption," the idea that money is spent in order to demonstrate wealth and gain social status. But historians from the Preservation Society of Newport County argue that the aesthetic choices of the time reflect a far more complex and complicated relationship to goods and wealth than simply the desire to indicate status. By reading The American Heiress, we're given a chance to imagine what those inner conflicts were possibly like.

The Great Hall The Breakers, library The Breakers, kitchen

The three images directly above show the interior of The Breakers. The video below takes us on a tour of the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island.


Map image by NordNordWest
Mansion images (from left to right): The Breakers by UpstateNYer, The Marble House by Daderot, Kingscote by Daniel Case
Images from inside The Breakers (from left to right): the Great Hall, the library, the kitchen by UpstateNYer

This article is from the March 21, 2012 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Rules of Magic
    The Rules of Magic
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's Rules of Magic is the long-awaited prequel to one of her most cherished novels,...
  • Book Jacket: Good Me Bad Me
    Good Me Bad Me
    by Ali Land
    Is a psychopath born or made? This is the terrifying question that author Ali Land explores in her ...
  • Book Jacket: Five-Carat Soul
    Five-Carat Soul
    by James McBride
    In the short story "Sonny's Blues," from the 1965 collection Going to Meet the Man, African-...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

"A powerful, provocative debut ... Intelligent, honest, and unsentimental." - Kirkus, starred review

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Seven Days of Us
    by Francesca Hornak

    A warm, wry debut novel about a family forced to spend a week together over the holidays.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Wisdom of Sundays

The Wisdom of Sundays
by Oprah Winfrey

Life-changing insights from super soul conversations.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Good M I H T F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.