Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Surviving High Society - Lots of Love Trumps Lots of Money by Elizabeth Marvin Mulholland

Review of Surviving High Society - Lots of Love Trumps Lots of Money 
by Elizabeth Marvin Mulholland

Surviving High Society - Lots of Love Trumps Lots of Money

This autobiography begins with a description of the heroine's parents, their affair, subsequent marriage and divorce. Elizabeth was given up for adoption the day after her birth and her name changed within months of her birth to Patricia Elizabeth Marvin. Adopted by a wealthy and emotionally unstable mother and a kind father, Elizabeth also had a younger brother by adoption named Ted. They lived outwardly enviable lives - huge houses, servants, luxury vacations and all that comes with being one of the wealthiest and oldest families in America. Glamourous and beautiful, Elizabeth becomes close friends with Hepburns and Hemingways. Through carefully chosen anecdotes, Elizabeth demonstrates the ways in which their mother controlled the children's lives from their early years. We learn that the household was dysfunctional from its early days and the facade of this idyllic life crumbles with her father's death. 

After her father's death at 22 years of age, Elizabeth lived in relatives peace with her mother in their large Connecticut house. Accustomed to presenting a proper front, Elizabeth finds herself outmaneuvered by her mother and her team of lawyers, doctors, and bankers. Elizabeth voluntarily commits herself and begins a lifelong struggle in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Despite these odds and lack of support, Elizabeth is able to find her a way outside and make a good life for herself without her mother's help. With a loving husband as her partner, she starts a business, a new life, and makes her own success. 

From the blurb and the title, I was aware that the story would have shades of Mummy Dearest - a controlling and unstable mother that would reach out to control her children through her fortune. In this way, the book did not disappoint. I was surprised to find myself liking the narrator and worrying about the measures that she'd take and the plots that she was unable to spot in her youth. Despite her huge fortune and the rather long discussion of her antecedents, Elizabeth is a very sympathetic character. I found myself enjoying the book and its clear narrative. It was particularly interesting to learn what life was like growing up in the 40s and 50s. It's an enjoyable read and a good way to spend a few hours. 

I would recommend this book to people interested in social gossip and in a narrative of a young girl finding her identity. 

Cover and Format: Straightforward picture of the author as a young woman.
Rating: 3 out of 5 
Release date: 2008 by Itasca Books (176 pages)
Courtesy of Bostick Communications.  Thank you again for the opportunity to review this book.


  1. Hey Gaby just wanted to tell you that I changed the date of my giveaway from June 30, to June 15!

  2. I've been in a memoir mood for a while now, and this sounds like a very interesting memoir.