Monday, April 26, 2010

Review: Dead End Gene Pool

If one was wondering what it's like to grow up in one of the United States's wealthiest families, Burden's memoir provides the answer. Descended from Cornelius Vanderbilt, Burden grew up among the super rich. If her autobiography makes anything clear, it's that the super rich are entirely dysfunctional. Burden grew up with little familial attention: her father committed suicide, her mother was rarely present. Burden spent most of her time in boarding school or with her distant grandparents, who clearly preferred her brothers. It's nearly impossible to overstate just how dysfunctional "Burdenland" is. Burden does a brilliant job highlighting the absurdity of uber wealth. For anyone who suspects that nobody actually needs that much money, this book will certainly reinforce that. This is a thoughtful memoir, Burden manages to highlight the absurdities of her family without any of the bitterness to which she is likely entitled. The Gilded Age that produced Cornelius Vanderbilt was alive and well in the twentieth century, at least for some. This memoir is both hilarious and poignant, and well worth the read.

Wendy Burden, Dead End Gene Pool (Gotham, 2010) ISBN: 1592405266

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