Plot/Idea: Determined to find out more about her mysterious and illustrious grandfather, Rathbun goes on a quest to discover the secrets behind a fascinating family figure. The book not only offers an intriguing premise and a fitting tribute to her grandfather, but an exploration of one of literature's most celebrated characters.
Prose: Rathbun's text is focused and accessible, full of historical verisimilitude and a fascinating family history.
Originality: Rathbun's evocative descriptions really bring the characters and history to life, the text beating a steady rhythm that is endearing and captivating. For those interested in early 20th century aristocracy and the literary works of the time, it's a compelling read, beautifully enhanced by impressive historical newspaper clippings and photographs.
Character/Execution: The author's grandfather George Gordon Moore is the key character in Rathbun's text, who was arguably the inspiration for one of the most revered literary characters of all time, the great Gatsby. The idiosyncrasies of the main players are effectively rendered, largely focusing on the tantalizing enigmas of both Gatsby and Moore.
Blurb: A fascinating and encapsulating insight into an intriguing figure.
Date Submitted: December 07, 2023
Rathbun tells this story with verve and real historical research, including a robust detailing on sources as well as photos that grounds the characters and setting. Far beyond the historical value, this is a compelling and deeply intimate portrait of her own grandfather: his fascinating life shapes her own, from her mother’s alcoholism to her family’s fascination with horse racing to the irrevocable stain the Depression left on her mother’s psyche. She doesn’t shy away from Moore’s “shadowy business dealings,” and just how he made his millions is never quite clear. From Rathbun’s telling, his life before the fall consisted of lavish parties, hunting for wild game, and machinations with the British aristocracy.
Rathbun’s commitment is admirable: she travels from North Carolina to California to find people with knowledge about her grandfather, in addition to extensive archival research, and the anecdotes she shares add color and pathos to the narrative, such as when she forces herself to eat wild boar meat or when she reconnects with her Uncle David. The result is an unflinching portrait of a somewhat scandalous transformation from “a low-born immigrants’ son into a celebrated international financier who lived the American Dream.”
Takeaway: Irresistible memoir of early 20th century extravagance, scandal, and family heritage.
Comparable Titles: Nathan Miller’s New World Coming, J.R. Ackerley’s My Father and Myself.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-