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Surviving High Society - Lots of Love Trumps…

Surviving High Society - Lots of Love Trumps Lots of Money

by Elizabeth Marvin Mulholland

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Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

Elizabeth should have been the envy of everyone. But behind the fa�ade lies her hidden story.

Given up for adoption at birth when her biological father wouldn't leave his current wife to marry her biological mother, Elizabeth becomes the daughter of a wealthy couple. It's only as she gets a bit older that her adoptive father reveals the truth. He didn't want her at first. He agreed to the adoption because that's what his wife wanted. But as with any ironic twist, it turns out that it's her adoptive father that comes to love Elizabeth. Her adoptive mother is the one that makes life hard.

After her adoptive father dies, Elizabeth's life becomes worse. Her mother does everything she can to control Elizabeth. She threatens her with disinheritance, and calls the cops when she takes the car one day. Her brother has always been the black sheep of the family, and after their father's death wants nothing to do with their mother.

As the story unfolds, the reader learns the horrors that her adoptive mother is willing to inflict on Elizabeth. After years of psychiatric treatment for debilitating depression, Elizabeth uncovers the secrecy her mother requested regarding her therapy.

Dysfunctional relationships surround Elizabeth. Starting with her birth mother, and ending with the realization of the lengths her adoptive mother went to control her, Elizabeth triumphs over her constant restraints.

SURVIVING HIGH SOCIETY reads more like a fascinating fiction novel than a memoir. The reader will be drawn into Elizabeth's life and addicted to the horrible twists that make up her formative years and beyond. Anyone that picks up this book will want to sit and read it in one sitting.

And if you're like me, you'll be thankful that you had a normal upbringing. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 13, 2009 |
Adopted into a wealthy family shortly after her birth, Elizabeth Mulholland led a life of lavishness and riches that most only dream about. But in her youth, she hungered for the things money couldn't buy: the love, acceptance and stability of her adoptive mother. Her family, which also included another adopted brother, was additionally complicated by his frequent violence and disruptiveness. After her father's death, Elizabeth's mother, a controlling and manipulative woman, begins to attempt to control her daughter by threatening disinheritance. Eventually, when that fails to get the desired results, she places Elizabeth in an asylum to be medicated for an invented mental disorder. Her hope is to have Elizabeth committed for life, or possibly, and more fiendishly, have her die of mysterious causes while in the care of the asylum. Although Elizabeth leads a tortured home life, she is adept at finding joy in the small things, and in this memoir chronicles the life she has led in spite of her mother's cruelty and hatred. Both shocking and scandalous, Elizabeth's story embodies the persistence and triumph of one woman's spirit amidst the chaos surrounding her.

I am a bit on the fence about this book. While I found reading it to be a completely absorbing experience, there were times that I felt as though the real grist of the story may have been obscured. I think in the author's attempt to be good mannered about the trials she suffered, she left out some of the most compelling aspects of the story. Why was her mother so vile, and why was her vileness so inconsistent? I never got the gist of that from her recollections. At times, her mother would remove her from the asylum to take her on cruises around the world, and the two would go shopping and dining in a way that seemed relaxed and even friendly. It was hard to stomach that she seemed to arbitrarily enforce a truce towards the daughter she hated and wished ill, only to place her back into the hospital once the trip had ended. I kept thinking that the author should have had more feelings of negativity towards the woman who made her suffer such torments, but throughout the book, Elizabeth remains passive and compliant in way that I found a bit odd.

On the other hand, I liked that she didn't persist in a sour grapes attitude and seemed to be cleverly optimistic about her life, even when the worst was upon her. Some of the most interesting sections of the book were her observations about the world and people around her and it was a refreshing change of pace to be privy to the thoughts of someone so genuinely optimistic. There was something about her that never let her wallow, but instead focus on the pleasing aspects of her life. In a way it was like reading two stories, one that was filled with treachery, and the other with humble hope. I liked the fact that nothing seemed to get her down, and that she took everything in stride, but was that honestly the way she felt about her situation? That was something I could never quite figure out. I know that if I had been where this author was, there would be a lot of bitterness in my heart for a mother who was so vicious, and I am not sure if, realistically, most people wouldn't have felt the same. I think it's great that she was able to rise above her mother's smallness, but was it really healthy to forgive and forget? Didn't that only place her in the danger zone again and again?

Aside from that, I liked Elizabeth and really wanted to see her succeed. She seemed like a very peaceful and genial person who maximized her enjoyments and minimized her discomforts. She didn't act like a victim but more like a passively resistant participant. It is also worth mentioning that during her childhood she was on friendly terms with Katherine Hepburn's family, and sections of the book provide a close look at the actress and her personality during the various stages of her life.

In writing this book, the author certainly unmasked her mother and learned to have a great life, though it seemed that she was not destined for one. In her later years, after her mother has died, she is finally free of the crippling control and abuse and leads a more normal life. But I still am left wondering: Has she really forgiven the woman who ruined most of her life? Does she really possess the nobleness and grace to let everything go and move on with nary a complaint? Ultimately, I must conclude that I admire Elizabeth for her staunch determination to face a tide of malice and come away the winner after all.

This book would make a great read for those who like an uplifting story or those who like compelling memoirs. I think that it was a very interesting and uncommon read, and one that may leave you with more questions than answers. For those who would like a chance to figure it out for themselves, I recommend giving this book a try. ( )
  zibilee | Jul 9, 2009 |

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.

Courtesy of Bostick Communications. Thank you again for the opportunity to review this book. ( )
  gaby317 | May 28, 2009 |
To the outside world, Elizabeth Marvin Mulholland had it all. Adopted into a wealthy New England family, the young Elizabeth was afforded the luxury many people only realize in their dreams. She joined her family on lavish European vacations, lived in a finely decorated home, grew up in a world heavily infiltrated by power and money, and hob-knobbed with celebrities. As a close friend of Katherine Hepburn's niece, she gained an inside look into Katherine Hepburn's guarded inner life, which she details in Surviving High Society.

Her real life, however, was not the fantasy it seemed to others. Elizabeth grew up in a volatile household. Her adopted brother attempted to murder her mother and remained estranged in the decades to follow. Her father, who was her strongest ally, died suddenly when she was twenty-two. And, until her death, Elizabeth's mother used all means possible to exert control over her life. Her mother bounced Elizabeth in and out of psychiatric facilities and used her wealth to persuade doctors to keep Elizabeth locked up and medicated. Throughout, Elizabeth struggled to keep the pieces of her life together.

After her mother disinherits Elizabeth, she successfully seeks to find freedom and a life of her own away from her mother s ever-watchful gaze. Her life becomes a life without fantastic riches, filled with its own obstacles and triumphs. But it is now her life. (amazon.com)

I could not put down this book and read it in one day. This author does a great job telling us the story of her life. Elizabeth has been born illegitimately to her mother and a married father. She has been given up for adoption and got adopted by a wacky, moneyed, blue-blooded family in Conneticut.A year later the family adopted a boy who later attempts to murder her mother.
Her mother had some mental problems and was very controlling. She sent Elizabeth in and out of psychiatric hospitals over the years. When Elizabeth finally got the courage and broke free her mother disinherited her. It is amazing that this lady was able to trust someone else in her life and found love and happiness after what she has been through.
I have great admiration for this lady who was able to turn her life around and recommend this book to anyone. ( )
1 vote barras31063 | May 25, 2009 |
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Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin W. Marvin, U.S. Army
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Life always has two sides: comedy and tragedy.
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