The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father, Scott, Janny

The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father

Authors: Scott, Janny

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

ISBN: 9780698195752

Classification: Fiction

Synopsis: A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

"[A] poignant addition to the literature of moneyed glamour and its inevitable tarnish and decay…like something out of Fitzgerald or Waugh."—The New Yorker

A parable for the new age of inequality: part family history, part detective story, part history of a vanishing class, and a vividly compelling exploration of the degree to which an inheritance—financial, cultural, genetic—conspired in one person's self-destruction.


Land, houses, and money tumbled from one generation to the next on the eight-hundred-acre estate built by Scott's investment banker great-grandfather on Philadelphia's Main Line. There was an obligation to protect it, a license to enjoy it, a duty to pass it on—but it was impossible to know in advance how all that extraordinary good fortune might influence the choices made over a lifetime. 

In this warmly felt tale of an American family's fortunes, journalist Janny Scott excavates the rarefied world that shaped her charming, unknowable father, Robert Montgomery Scott, and provides an incisive look at the weight of inheritance, the tenacity of addiction, and the power of buried secrets.

Some beneficiaries flourished, like Scott's grandmother, Helen Hope Scott, a socialite and celebrated horsewoman said to have inspired Katherine Hepburn's character in the play and Academy Award-winning film The Philadelphia Story. For others, including the author's father, she concludes, the impact was more complex.

Bringing her journalistic talents, light touch, and crystalline prose to this powerful story of a child's search to understand a parent's puzzling end, Scott also raises questions about our new Gilded Age. New fortunes are being amassed, new estates are being born. Does anyone wonder how it will all play out, one hundred years hence?

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