It is often very funny, with some moments paced like a drawing room comedy ... There are some wonderful characters here ... Still, to concentrate on such things is to miss the point of this fascinating and judicious book ... as she moves through her family’s story The Beneficiary starts to resemble a quest, a search for something bigger than a factual answer to that reporter’s question ... This new work is inevitably more personal, but she never makes herself its focus. She concentrates on the family instead ... Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. called his 1988 account of his own family Old Money and parts of The Beneficiary offer a similar taxonomy, with Scott presenting herself as an anthropologist, defining the odd folkways of her tribe.
Flair is in the DNA. As attentive to outré details as to psychological turmoil, Scott makes the most of the suspense built into her story ... The bequest was brilliant: A man in unhappy thrall to a place lured his daughter further and further in—and she escaped with priceless insight into its, and his, hidden depths.
[Scott's] engrossing, lovely but wholly unsentimental portrait of her family and her father ... a story about wealth and privilege unimaginable to most of us becomes, in the end, a sad and cautionary tale.
A former national reporter for the New York Times, where she specialized in stories about housing and race, Ms. Scott is a keen observer of social forces and mores. The story she tells could be the plot of an Edith Wharton or Henry James novel. Her prose, too, has that Gilded Age feel: decadence, decay and drink waft gorgeously off the pages. Yet this study of privilege is also timely, prompting thoughts of the recent college-admissions scandal. Ms. Scott can’t have had that particular example in mind while she wrote, but she does gesture to our new gilded age of inequality and excess, of billionaires erecting mansions and fixing their children’s futures.
... a heart-wrenching and engrossing ode to family, tradition, and the complexities of inheritable wealth ... Scott’s exploration of American aristocracy situates well with today’s economic climate, and the author does not hesitate in drawing parallels and posing tough questions for those living in the new Gilded Age ... Scott’s account reads as lyrical nonfiction and extends beyond her own family to shed light on America’s elite from the Gilded Age through the present day.
The family story the author tells is fascinating for the painful personal legacies it uncovers. At the same time, it is also compelling for the parallels it draws between an earlier age of inequality and our own ... A heartfelt and rich narrative tapestry.
Scott pulls no punches when revealing the vulnerabilities of her family, particularly her father ... She also provides a tantalizing glimpse into Main Line opulence via remembrances of life on her family’s estate, Ardrossan ... Told without false modesty or overweening privilege, Scott’s story is a well-paced narrative punctuated with lyrical prose. This is a fascinating glimpse into a rarefied world.