BIOGRAPHY

Embers of Childhood: Growing Up a Whitney

Arcade: Skyhorse. Jun. 2019. 328p. illus. ISBN 9781948924009. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781948924016. MEMOIR
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Biddle (The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made) recounts her life as a member of the prestigious Whitney family (she is a granddaughter of Whitney museum founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney) in the early 20th century. The author begins with details of her childhood in Aiken, SC, where a small band of blue bloods lived most of the year, holding fox hunts and social gatherings. Biddle further discusses other Whitney properties and members of the close-knit aristocratic community: her brother and vivacious half siblings as well as the nurses and teachers who shaped her life. Sprinkled throughout this work that reads a bit like a scrapbook are photos of fishing and hunting cabins and family events. The tone is mixed; both light reading with a nostalgic air that merges warm memories of an idyllic upbringing and the loneliness in a child whose parents were often away or emotionally distant.
VERDICT Though well written, this honest memoir of a privileged life will likely most appeal to those interested in the Whitneys. The specificity of its subject matter reaching a somewhat limited audience.

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