Review and Free Giveaway: Dead End Gene Pool

Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden

Publication date/ Length: 2010 / 279 pages

Synopsis (from the jacket cover): For generations the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York, thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. By 1955, the year of Wendy’s birth, the Burdens had become a clan of overfunded, quirky and brainy, steadily chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed bluebloods on the verge of financial and moral decline — and were rarely seen not holding a drink.

First line: “It’s a testament ot his libido, if not his character, that Cornelius Vanderbilt died of syphilis instead of apoplexy.”

Review: I tend to enjoy memoir as a genre and am fascinated by how people choose to live their lives, so when TLC Tours contacted me to read this memoir of one of the Vanderbilts’ ancestors, I thought, “Why not?”  I very rarely read memoirs of famous people and thought this might be a nice change. Based on evidence that surrounds us, people who are born with extreme privilege seem to have a generally tougher time finding lasting happiness, and the Vanderbilts seem to be no exception.

The author has a very distinct voice and outlook on life.  She records her childhood experiences with palpable scorn and distaste and presents them, warts and all, as peculiar characters who give her everything her heart desired – except for what her heart desired…  unconditional love.  Burden’s voice is unique and authentic and her cutting humor truly brings a sense of credibility to individuals who seem incredible.

In fact, Burden’s voice is so singular, I believe most readers could open a random page, read a few passages, and be able to predict whether or not they would enjoy her memoir.  So, here are two passages for your consideration. First a description of one of her grandparents’ properities:

“A decade before I was born, my grandparents built a house on Mount Desert Island in Maine. They positioned it on the pink granite rocks at the entrance to Northeast Harbor, making it a beacon to anyone who was traveling by in a boat; and in Maine in the summer that means everyone. Even if you looked the other way, you couldn’t miss it; the sun bounced off the Belgian hand-rolled picture windows like a paparazzi flash off a Harry Winston sparkler. Natives, tourists, and summer residents gawked as they passed by, and commented freely on the design, the artistic delusion, and the obvious moral depravity of both architect and owner.”

And a bit of dialogue describing young Wendy’s attempt to scare away one of her mother’s suitors:

“Wanna see my hamster? Or my guillotine? How about the two of them together? I bet you didn’t know we have a dog that’s trained to kill people.”

So while I did not particularly enjoy this story of excess and deprivation, I think others might.  Interested?  Drop me a comment and I’ll choose a winner by Saturday!

Wendy Burden’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, April 19th:  Life in Pink

Tuesday, April 20th:  Bibliophile by the Sea

Wednesday, April 21st:  A Sea of Books

Thursday, April 22nd:  Simply Stacie

Friday, April 23rd:  A Bookshelf Monstrosity

Monday, April 26th:  Luxury Reading

Wednesday, April 28th:  Book’N Around

Thursday, April 29th:  Chaotic Compendiums

Friday, April 30th:  Rundpinne

Monday, May 3rd:  One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books

Wednesday, May 5th:  Book Club Classics!

Friday, May 7th:  The Brain Lair

Monday, May 10th:  The Serpentine Library

Tuesday, May 11th:  Books Are Like Candy Corn

Monday, May 17th:  Sophisticated Dorkiness

Tuesday, May 18th:  Starting Fresh

Tuesday, May 18th:  Books on the Brain:  Reading Series Discussion

This entry was posted in Book Club Favorites, Reviews, The Sunday Salon and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Review and Free Giveaway: Dead End Gene Pool

  1. Sue says:

    I’d like to give this one a try!

  2. Heather says:

    This type of life is so foreign to me! However, it seems like one of those books you have to take a look at, even if your mouth is hanging open the open the whole time!

    heatherstubbs (at) mac (dot) com

  3. Margie says:

    We visited the Biltmore and read a previous book about the family, Fortune’s Children. It’s interesting just how much problem too much money can cause. Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. Theresa N says:

    Life styles of the rich and famous, sign me up I enjoy read biographies and autobiograhies.

  5. Elise says:

    I would love to win this book. Not only am I a fan of reading biographies especially if they are interesting like this one and my family is almost as quirky and dysfunctional as the vanderbilts only we were never wealthy. I needs some good laughs and this book is sure to deliver.

  6. I read about this book in the Chicago Tribune, and it sounded fascinating! I would love to win a copy, and who can get over that first line-unbelievable!

    I had forgotten to add this book to my TBR pile, so thanks for reminding me.

  7. forgot my email…
    girlsgonereading (at) yahoo (dot) com

  8. This book has been on my list for weeks. Would love to win a copy and start reading.


  9. I have been wanting this one!!! Please count me in!

  10. I’m still reading this one, but I think your assessment that people could pick any passage in the book, read it, and knpw if they’d like it or not is exactly right. Burden’s voice and style are so distinctive, which I like, but can be a little much at other times too.

  11. Kristen says:

    I’m so glad to see interest in this quirky memoir! I wish I had more than one copy to giveaway…

  12. Cynthia V says:

    I’d love to give this one a try. I actually had it on my library list. Thanks for the giveaway.

  13. Lisa Munley says:

    SO sorry it took me awhile to get over here! Just wanted to say thanks so much for being on the tour. We are having a discussion with Wendy at Books on the Brain on May 18th if you want to pop over and say hi!

  14. Molly says:

    This is the second review I have read for this book in so many days. I enjoy reading how the “other half lives” and would love to be entered in the give away. Thanks so much for the offer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *