(NOTE: I received early access to this manuscript through netgalley.com in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you Ballantine Books. Scheduled Publication: February 15, 2022)
This book is a first-person account of a fascinating woman I knew very little about. THE MAGNIFICENT LIVES OF MARJORIE POST is a compelling, fast paced historical novel that touches on changing social movements, politics, business, and gender roles throughout the 20th century — from one of my favorite historical novelists, Allison Pataki. Awarded four stars on Goodreads, maybe a bit generous.
Born into a poor Midwest family, Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) becomes the sole heiress of her father’s (C.W. Post) entrepreneurial efforts (Postum Cereal Co.) and, although limited by the gender expectations of her day, turns it into the company we now know as General Foods. Along the way, there are four marriages, three children, and plenty of opportunities to mingle among the rich and powerful — with names like Kellogg, Vanderbilt, and Roosevelt.
Marjorie lives a life of unimaginable luxury (300 ft. yacht, jewels from Russian tsars, and builds multiple mansions including Mar-a-Lago — yes, the same one Donald Trump today owns.) and becomes the preeminent social hostess of her day. But unlike many who come from wealth, she also uses her private funds to do quite a bit of good in the world. Her efforts help people survive war injuries, transport soldiers, feed families, and navigate The Great Depression.
Author Allison Pataki acknowledges in her Author’s Note that she greatly admires Marjorie Post and that definitely comes across in the novel. While I too came to admire her, I have to say that Post comes across in this book as a near-perfect human, even superhuman. Her marriages fail but she somehow is always the victim. Her children grow up with nannies and elite private schools but they turn out attentive and loving. Even one-time enemies become her friends. As a result, I found Post somewhat LESS than three-dimensional. I, for one, would have appreciated a few flaws.
The woman is nonetheless fascinating, her story provides interesting glimpses into world politics in a transformational century, and the book is a fast read. So, enjoy! As I did.
You may be interested in my reviews of other historical novels by Allison Pataki:
Where the Light Falls (with Owen Pataki)