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An American Princess: The Many Lives of…

An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew (2015)

by Annejet van der Zijl

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3011657,776 (3.48)15
Born to a pioneering family in Upstate New York in the late 1800s, Allene Tew was beautiful, impetuous, and frustrated by the confines of her small hometown. At eighteen, she met Tod Hostetter at a local dance, having no idea that the mercurial charmer she would impulsively wed was heir to one of the wealthiest families in America. But when he died twelve years later, Allene packed her bags for New York City. From the vantage point of the American upper class, Allene embodied the tumultuous Gilded Age. Over the course of four more marriages, she weathered personal tragedies during World War I and the catastrophic financial reversals of the crash of 1929. From the castles and châteaus of Europe, she witnessed the Russian Revolution and became a princess. And from the hopes of a young girl from Jamestown, New York, Allene Tew would become the epitome of both a pursuer and survivor of the American Dream.… (more)
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» See also 15 mentions

English (13)  Dutch (3)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This was a highly engaging book about an American lady most Americans know nothing about. Allene's life is fascinating. From its beginning in Jamestown, New York, to it's close in a house by the sea in France, Allene's life is one of tragedy, triumph, sorrow, and love. Allene's personal friendships brought her into contact with members of the Dutch royal family, and had it not been for her influence, Holland may not have a royal family today. It's a wonderful look at a time gone by. The English version of the book (from the original Dutch) does not feel like a translation at all. An excellent read. ( )
  briandrewz | Oct 19, 2019 |
Aliene Tew came of age in a pioneer community on the edges of civilization. The time was the late 1800's and for a woman there were few ways to escape the life you were born into. But Aliene was a fighter and a survivor and she always found a way to rise above her past circumstances, tamp down her grief, and move on to bigger and hopefully better things. So from the time of her first marriage to the time of her fifth she lived a remarkable life.
This kept my interest while I was reading it, but I don't remember many of the details. I do remember Aliene suffered some horrible tragedies but she had a remarkable ability to put the past behind her and move on with life. ( )
  debs4jc | Oct 9, 2019 |
I'm afraid that I just didn't find this woman's life very compelling. Allene Tew's extended family were founders of Jamestown, New York. Her own parents were not quite in high society, although they had ambitions. Allene got pregnant at 18 and eloped with Tod Hochstetter, heir to a Pittsburgh elixir fortune. It wasn't a happy marriage as her husband was a gambler and boozer. They had three children, all of whom died young (Verna at age two, Greta and Teddy both in 1918; he was a pilot shot down by the Germans and Great, a pregnancy young wife, contracted Spanish Flu). Following a "Paris divorce," Allene married another boozer/gambler and divorced again. Her third husband, Anson Burchard, head of the new General Electric Company, was the only husband who seemed to marry her for love instead of for her beauty or money. The next two husbands, both younger, were minor European aristocrats. She used some of her fortune for philanthropic projects, but it seemed like most of it went to her habit of buying houses (including one in Newport owned by the Astors); she picked up houses like some women pick up lipsticks or scarves. She also supported a lot of lazy extended family members, including her fourth husband's son, who never worked in his life but preferred to live in one of her many houses, waited upon by her servants.

Allene was in the society pages most of her life, for her marriages, divorces, and the controversy over her will. But why any of this makes her worthy of a biography is beyond me, and in fact, this is a rather short one as the last 25% of the book is devoted to the author's acknowledgements, bibliography, and notes. In her epilogue, she states that what fascinated her was Allene's persistent focus on the positive, which she admires as a wonderful Victorian approach to life. In many of her letters to her stepson, Allene advises him not to blame others for his problems and to looks for the good in everyone. Personally, I'm finding that a lot harder to do in the Age of Trump. I just didn't see that much to admire here, let alone much of interest. Unlike other philanthropists, Allene didn't even leave her fortune to serve the public good but left it to friends, servants, and extended family members, many of whom had been living off her wealth and quarreling over her will for years. ( )
1 vote Cariola | Aug 11, 2019 |
What a very interesting life... Allene Tew grew up poot in Jamestown, but was able to cross the line of society by marrying Tod Hostetter (one of the wealthiest families in america)... but when he died 12 years later she went to New York where she met & married Morton C Nichols.

Her 3rd husband, Anson Wood Burchard, who would be the love of her life.

Her 4th husband, Prince Henry Reuss XXXIII married her for her money. After they divorced and she went on to marry her 5th & last husband, Paul Kotzebue, who was once guard to the Russian Royal Family.

Allene was a philanthropist and helped many people including the children of her relatives....

Her homes were sumptuous (I googled them) and her life although at times tragic was amazingly full.

I really couldn't put the book down!

Why only 4 Stars? The lack of photos! ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jul 13, 2019 |
I just could not connect with the characters. Felt remote and not engaged. Maybe because of the writing style? ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jul 1, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
van der Zijl, Annejetprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hutchison, MicheleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wij beschouwen deze waarheden als vanzelfsprekend: dat alle mensen als gelijken worden geschapen, dat zij door hun schepper met zekere onvervreemdbare rechten zijn begiftigd, dat zich daaronder bevinden het leven, de vrijheid en nastreven van geluk . Thomas Jefferson , Declaration of Independence, 4 juli 1776
Het leven kan alleen achterwaarts begrepen worden, maar het moet voorwaarts worden geleefd. Sören Kierkegaard, Dagboeken 1834 - 1855
Wij zijn allemaal slechts mens geworden in de mate waarin we van mensen hebben gehouden en in de gelegenheid waren van ze te houden. Boris Pasternak
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Voor Sefanja Nods in vriendschap
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Picture this: an old woman and the sea.
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