From the outside anyone would have thought Elizabeth Marvin had the perfect life: a wealthy family, an expensive education, extravagant vacations, and more. But hiding behind the perfect façade was a deeply troubled childhood for Elizabeth and her brother, both of whom were adopted. Elizabeth’s memoir, Surviving High Society tells of her life growing up around the world of New England monied families, her difficult relationship with her controlling mother, and the refuge she found with her father, and eventually, with her husband.
Born in 1940, Elizabeth’s memoir takes us through the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and touches on the life of Katharine Hepburn, whose niece was a friend. While the situations she describes offer a fascinating glimpse into society life of the times, there is not enough detail about her family situation to really help the reader understand the bad experiences she talks about. It’s almost as though the training Elizabeth must have had in holding back her emotions is still at work even as she cracks open the door to let us know a little bit about what went on inside her home.
While I don’t believe this is a perfect choice for mother-daughter book clubs, I found it an interesting book to read for it’s historical context and to learn about one woman’s struggle to become her own, independent person in a time that was difficult for women to assert themselves.