Just look at this cover. Can you tell what it’s about? Not one single word about The Biltmore or Asheville, North Carolina. What on earth were they thinking when they did this cover? Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the cover is absolutely stunning. However, if Biltmore was mentioned, this amazing book would be getting more attention.
THE LAST CASTLE by Denise Kiernan, is all about the building of The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. All about the super-rich Vanderbilt family who designed and built this Downton -Abbyish manor. I knew I wanted to read it the moment I realized what this book was all about.
So I waited to do this review until I had a chance to actually visit and tour the house. We just spent the Christmas holiday in Asheville visiting my daughter and her family. We toured the house and the gardens and the grounds. Yes, it’s all even more wonderful and truly stunning, up close and personal.
Christmas Eve was pretty chilly in Asheville. But we all bundled up and went to tour the most visual spot in the state. Plus, afterward, we enjoyed hot cider and hot chocolate at one of the cafes.
THE LAST CASTLE is an amazing non-fiction story about the creation of The Biltmore House and life within. We get a giant look into the life Edith and George Vanderbilt made for themselves. Written in smooth prose that flows throughout, Kiernan gives life to the stone and mortar building that embodies this story.
Denise Kiernan was asked what attracted her to the story behind the building of the Biltmore Estate. She said: ” A combination of factors played into it. I visited Biltmore for the first time while I was still in high school and loved the grounds in particular. I never anticipated at that time, that I would ever live in Asheville. When my husband and I moved here more than eleven years ago now, I had the opportunity to visit as an adult and fell in love with the place. I was also stunned at how many people I knew–especially in other parts of the country–who had no idea about the rich history of Biltmore, let alone the fact that no other house in the United States has ever come close to equalling it in size. I kept collecting information over the years, the way I do with lots of ideas, but this one wouldn’t leave me alone. Then I just felt that it was time to write about it.”
Kiernan spent countless hours buried in old documents, letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs, doing meticulous research for THE LAST CASTLE. It shows in the clear and concise readability of the book.
I was entranced with the library and its 10,000 books. Another 13,000 are housed elsewhere. These are loaded on shelves stretching two stories high. And are very impressive, indeed.
Then there is the precious artwork on the vast walls worth $26,046,020. Yikes! Your head will spin and turn at each corner as you try to take it all in.
When the Biltmore opened to the public on March 15, 1930, the entry fee for the tour was an amazing $2. Imagine that. Now inflation has ratcheted the price up to a very impressive $ 75. Ouch! I would definitely recommend going during the Christmas holidays. I can’t imagine the house not all dressed up now that I’ve seen it this way.
All 250 rooms are not included in the tour. Thank God. The stairs alone can be difficult if you are not used to climbing. My thighs were sore the next day.
The unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are priceless. Spring brings masses of blooming tulips and aromatic roses. Later in the summer the fields are filled with majestic sunflowers, their sunny smiling faces lifted toward the sky.
Encompassing world wars, the Jazz Age, financial crises, scandalous marriages, natural disasters, murder and suicide, the story of Biltmore House takes readers from the wilds of Appalachia to the glamour of New York, Newport, and Paris, and features a captivating cast of characters including Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Henry James, John Singer Sargent, and James Whistler.
There is no bad time to visit Biltmore. But, before you go, you might just want to pick up this wonderful book. You can buy a copy a copy at
Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda. We highly recommend it! My finished hardcopy was very generously sent to me from Touchstone Books, a division of Simon& Schuster, in exchange for an honest review. I love it!
This is my last post for 2017. My how the year has flown by. Thank you all for reading my blog and kindly commenting on my posts. There are wonderful books in store for the coming year! Happy New Year! Be safe.