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Brooke's Pick: The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe


After losing her husband on the RMS Titanic, Madeleine Astor, who is constantly surrounded by scandal, finds her status elevated to that of a virtuous, tragic heroine and must decide whether to accept the role assigned to her or carve out her own extraordinary path.


It is a rare book that makes me tear up, but cry I did while reading Shana Abe’s new novel The Second Mrs. Astor, a story of Madeleine Force and John Jacob Astor IV’s courtship and marriage, and its tragic end aboard the RMS Titanic. I had no knowledge of Madeleine beyond the slight mention of her in the 1997 film Titanic, so aside from the sinking of the Titanic at the end of the book, this story was completely new to me.


Abe writes The Second Mrs. Astor in the form of a letter from Madeleine to her son John Jacob Astor VI, with whom she was pregnant on that fateful night the Titanic sank and the boy’s father was lost to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Madeleine tells her son about his father: how he, at the age of 47, courted the 17 year old Madeleine; how they fell in love despite their relationship being utterly scandalous for the time; and how they married and honeymooned in Egypt before boarding the Titanic.


I’ll admit that The Second Mrs. Astor did move rather slowly at the beginning of the book, and almost lost my attention at times; however, once Madeleine and John enter into a relationship, I found the pace and interest level of the novel to pick up and I was fully engaged in their story. The book reads like the time period in which it is written - quiet, gentle, and languid - and gives a good sense of the early 20th century and the customs adopted by upper class society. Additionally, I loved that John Jacob Astor’s dear Airedale terrier Kitty played a large role in this story, and as a dog lover, I was thrilled that Abe chose to write her into so many scenes.


If you’re like me and don’t know where Madeleine and John’s story begins, you surely know where it ends, and the chapters of The Second Mrs. Astor written aboard the Titanic are the most fascinating of all. I was a teenager when the film Titanic (1997) was released, and like all young people across the world, I was completely captivated by the ill-fated ship and her passengers. Having not seen the movie in more than a decade, I quite enjoyed being taken back to the world of the Titanic, and even though I knew it was coming, found myself crying when she went down into the depths of the cold, dark Atlantic.


Read The Second Mrs. Astor if you are interested in learning more about the people who were aboard the Titanic, and especially if you enjoy a good love story!


Availability: Book; Large Print Book; eBook in cloudLibrary Rating: **** Stars (I really liked it) Reviewer: Brooke, Public Relations Librarian

 

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The Second Mrs. Astor


GENRE: Historical Fiction

LOCATION: Egypt; New York City

TIME PERIOD: 1910s

SUBJECT: Astor Family; Celebrities; Fame; Honeymoons; Husband and Wife; Independence in Women; Married Men; Newlyweds; Pregnancy; Rich Families; Shipwrecks; Widows


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