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The American Heiress: A Novel
by Daisy Goodwin

Published: 2011-06-21
Kindle Edition : 496 pages
118 members reading this now
45 clubs reading this now
40 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
"Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms (who isn't?) will find an instant tonic in Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress. The story of Cora Cash, an American heiress in the 1890s who bags an English duke, this is a deliciously evocative first novel that lingers in the mind." ...
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"Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms (who isn't?) will find an instant tonic in Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress. The story of Cora Cash, an American heiress in the 1890s who bags an English duke, this is a deliciously evocative first novel that lingers in the mind." --Allison Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of I Don’t Know How She Does It and I Think I Love You

Be careful what you wish for. Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

Witty, moving, and brilliantly entertaining, Cora’s story marks the debut of a glorious storyteller who brings a fresh new spirit to the world of Edith Wharton and Henry James.

"For daughters of the new American billionaires of the 19th century, it was the ultimate deal: marriage to a cash-strapped British Aristocrat in return for a title and social status. But money didn’t always buy them happiness." --Daisy Goodwin in The Daily Mail
One of Library Journal's Best Historical Fiction Books of 2011
The American Heiress was originally sold and distributed in the UK as My Last Duchess.

Editorial Review

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Discussion Questions

1. What is your initial impression of Cora Cash?
How does she develop as a person in the course
of the novel?
2. In America, Cora is clearly at the top of society,
while Bertha is very near the bottom. In what ways
do their circumstances change when they move
to England?
3. What role do the mothers in the story—Mrs. Cash,
Mrs. Van Der Leyden, and the Double Duchess—
play in the central characters’ lives?
4. Cora is always aware that “no one was unaffected
by the money.” How does the money affect Cora
herself ? What are the pleasures and perils of
great wealth?
5. What is your opinion of Teddy and the Duke?
What about Charlotte?
6. What do you think about Cora’s decision at the
end of the book? Would you have made the same
choice? (The author has said she was of two minds
up until the last chapter.)
7. What are the differences between the Old World
and the New in the novel? Do both worlds seem
remote in the twenty-first century, or do you see
parallels to contemporary society?
Why do modern readers enjoy reading novels about the past? Take a moment to discuss your experiences as a reader of historical fiction, in
general, and of The American Heiress in particular.
9. When she was chair of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010, Daisy Goodwin wrote a
controversial essay lamenting the “unrelenting grimness” of so many of the novels and pointing out that “generally great fiction contains light
and shade”—not only misery but joy and humor. What do you think about Daisy’s argument that
“it is time for publishers to stop treating literary
fiction as the novelistic equivalent of cod-liver oil: if it’s nasty it must be good for you”?
10. Kirkus Reviews called The American Heiress a “shrewd, spirited historical romance with flavors of Edith Wharton, Daphne du Maurier, and
Jane Austen.” Other critics have also seen echoes of Henry James. If you have read any of these earlier novelists, what parallels and differences
do you see in Daisy’s work?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A note from author Daisy Goodwin:

Dear Readers,

The American Heiress is the story of an American heiress struggling to fit into British high society in the 1890s and perfect for fans of Edith Wharton or Downton Abbey. I had so much fun writing The American HeiressTo get myself in the right frame of mind I actually laced myself into a corset for a whole day, which gave me fabulous posture and a very real sense of the restrictions placed on women at that time, even wealthy and privileged ones.

Enjoy! ­Daisy Goodwin

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Kimberly B. (see profile) 05/20/19

by Meagan P. (see profile) 06/22/18

by Amelia N. (see profile) 01/10/17

  "This is a good book"by Ellen S. (see profile) 01/17/14

I don't know that we had too much conversation about this book, it quickly went to The Great Gatsby era and book.

  "How does money and love affect one?"by Charlene M. (see profile) 09/30/13

The reader gets to follow the American heiress in her quest for independence and growing up. Cora (the heiress) has to navigate the differences in society from America and England, how money can ruin... (read more)

  "The American Heiress"by Nelson K. (see profile) 04/11/13

Everyone who showed up for book club enjoyed the book and there is a lot to discuss.

  "The American Heiress: A Novel"by Chris F. (see profile) 01/31/13

  "A nice easy read"by Rebecca M. (see profile) 10/03/12

The American Heiress was a book I wasn't excited to read. However, once into the 3rd chapter I couldn't put it down! The characters were strong and the book had enough intrigue and compelling characters... (read more)

  "easy read and pleasant"by Jessica E. (see profile) 09/26/12

  "Enjoyable if formulaic"by Jodie B. (see profile) 09/08/12

Daisy Goodwin provides an enjoyable if formulaic tale about a young American woman with a social climbing mother who takes her to England to utilize their vast fortune to "buy" her a title.

... (read more)

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