The Astor Orphan begins in Alexandra Aldrich’s tenth summer, at the moment when her father returns home with an alluring Frenchwoman. The interloper sets into motion a series of familial feuds and disasters that unmoor the last remnants of Alexandra’s family life. But as Alexandra reveals, the origins of her family’s disintegration can be traced back to the Gilded Age when the greater Astor legacy began to come undone, leaving the Aldrich branch virtually penniless and squabbling over what little was left.
Alexandra grew up in the servants’ quarters of Rokeby, the family’s beautiful mansion, foraging for her next meal, battling for dominance with her wealthier first cousins, and striving to get her pathologically distracted parents to take care of her. Amid the chaos and squalor of the household, the young girl, forced by circumstances to become wise beyond her years, rose promptly at 6:30 each morning, adhering to a strict schedule of exercise, cleanliness, and intensive violin practice that imposed order on her anarchic world.
Illustrated with sixteen pages of black-and-white photographs that bring this faded world into focus, The Astor Orphan is Alexandra Aldrich's heartrending story—a memoir of staggering power with the unflinching pathos and grit of The Glass Castle and the faded glory and madness of Grey Gardens.