Monday, March 29, 2010

Booklist Review of Kid Carolina!

R. J. Reynolds Jr. (1906–64), an heir to the Camel cigarette fortune, was frequently in the public eye. Whether he gave away money, divorced wives (three of them), killed somebody while driving drunk, stood for public office, served in the navy in World War II, or competed in yachting regattas, the scion attracted attention on a tabloid scale. In this thoroughly researched account of Reynolds’ raffish life, Schnakenberg does not judge her subject, presenting a chronicle of his activities reconstructed from newspaper reports, Reynolds family archives, and previous family biographies such as The Gilded Leaf (1989). The author also adopts, in places, the liberty of re-creating dialogue in numerous scenes of domestic hostility. Dysfunctional before the invention of the term, Reynolds’ marriages were replete with boozing, screaming, and thrown objects. If not as tempestuous, his fourth and final union characteristically produced strife: Reynolds disinherited his children and bequeathed his entire estate to his last spouse. Crediting him with some enduring philanthropic legacies, Schnakenberg fairly shades in the light and the dark in her portrait of the restlessly rich Reynolds. --Gilbert Taylor


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