New Books by Midlife Women: December

Dive into one of these new releases this winter.
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Mrs. Astor Regrets

Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon (Houghton Mifflin)

The thrice-married Manhattan socialite Brooke Astor — she wed John Dryden Kuser at 17, Charles "Buddie" Marshall at 31 and finally, at 52, fur trade and real-estate heir Vincent Astor — had a lot to show for her unions, including acting as chairwoman for the Vincent Astor Foundation. She bore only one child, Anthony Marshall. What most Manhattanites — and perhaps most of the nation — will remember about Astor, who died in 2007 at age 105, are the headlines splashed across newspapers in her final days: her dutiful grandson Philip had sued his father for neglecting his grandmother, and Anthony Marshall was later arrested on charges of looting her estate. Author Meryl Gordon, a master of celebrity profiles, provides the reader with insight into the details of that scandal and the turbulent nature of her marriages — Kuser was an abusive drunk and adulterer, Marshall died suddenly, leaving her without an inheritance, and Astor was a suspicious man, believing everyone was out to get him. His paranoia resulted in the couple spending a lot of time alone. But her life wasn’t all gloom. Famous voices like Nancy Reagan, Tom Brokaw, and Barbara Walters recall a woman who was flirtatious and fun, and active well through her 90s. "At an age when few people are healthy or even ambulatory," Gordon writes, "Brooke Astor was still in the thick of high society…." From where I’m standing, Mrs. Astor really shouldn’t have had any regrets. Yes, she fell victim to gossip and scandal, but she also had money and friendships, and a legacy of philanthropy that will long outlast the headlines.

— Cheryl Lock

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The Possession

The Possession by Annie Ernaux (Seven Stories Press)

Bestselling French author Ernaux has built her career on rendering almost every aspect of a woman’s experience, from the hidden contours of her marriage to the indelible loss of her mother, with unsparing honesty and insight. Her latest novella is an excruciatingly frank — and spot-on — portrait of romantic jealousy in midlife. Ernaux’s take on obsession will stay with you long after you zip through these 62 razor-sharp pages.

— Dawn Raffel

Originally published on, December 2008.

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