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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Surviving High Society: Lots of Love Trumps Lots of Money...Review

About the book:
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 Katharine Hepburn's niece, she gained an inside look into Katharine 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.

I found this to be a fascinating memoir. More a series of vignettes, rather than a straight-forward autobiography, Elizabeth's story captivates. After her beloved father died, her adoptive mother was the one with the mental issues, but managed to get Elizabeth committed to the psychiatric hospital. I was appalled at the control her mother was able to exert over the doctors and the hospital: the falsification of medical records and the unnecessary, non-therapeutic medication.

Elizabeth managed to leave the hospital and have a life in and around her visits back. There were even times of happiness and enjoyment: good friends with welcoming families, trips and cruises, brushes with fame and royalty. However, her controlling mother was always difficult. Once Elizabeth cut the apron strings and left home, even at the risk of disinheritance, she still struggled with finding herself and overcoming adversity.

This could be a depressing book, but it wasn't. It was an enthralling glimpse into the wealthy WASP world, especially in the 50s and 60s. The adage that money can't buy love or happiness is well represented here. Elizabeth is to be commended for her ability to rise above a difficult upbringing.

Thanks to Elizabeth Marvin Mulholland and Bostick Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Elizabeth Marvin Mulholland here. You can purchase the book here and here.

Read 6/09

* * *
3/5 Stars


  1. Wow, that sounds like a frightening story!

  2. Kathy, it wasn't really frightening, which was surprising. It also wasn't depressing, which it very well could have been. Sad at times, but fascinating would be a better description.