The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post, a review by Di

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Allison Pataki

Ballantine Books
February 15, 2022
400 pages | Goodreads | Amazon

I love fictional accounts of people’s lives. Marjorie Post was the heiress to the Post Cereal/General Foods fortune. Books like this take me a long time to read…..I keep Googling names and places and events to see if they actually were as described. Fiction meets reality.

The book starts out when Marjorie was a little girl and follows her through the years. She acquired her business acumen from her father and after his death, she kept expanding her empire. It was tough to be a businesswoman in the 1920s. She could not be the official head of the company, as she was a woman. But, she had people working for the company who respected her decisions and were hugely successful. Marjorie was also a very giving person. She always wanted to do for others, among many other things she opened food kitchens during the depression. She had hospitals built. She always made sure her employees were well treated.

There is a lot of name dropping in the book. The Asters, the Roosevelts, the Pulitzers and many more. This is not meant as a negative….they are all contemporaries, their paths crossed many times socially. We follow Marjorie from several locations in the US to Moscow and major centres in Europe.

There is so much to like about the book. I found the development of the Post Cereal company very interesting. I ate Post Honeycombs and Sugar Crisp while growing up. My grandmother drank Postum, a coffee replacement made from grains. I loved that the vocabulary of the time was used (spendthrift, philanderer are examples). I loved the fact that Marjorie was such a successful woman, long before it was “acceptable”. I found her spending habits and indulgences fascinating and sometimes over the top…..I just cannot imagine having that much money at my disposal. At times it felt like money meant nothing to her.

If there is anything negative to say about the book is that it is a bit long because it covers such a long and productive life. I don’t know if it would have been possible to leave anything out. The final few chapters seemed like they were condensed.

I’m not sure if I like the way Marjorie Post was portrayed. While it was obvious she was a strong woman, she was also portrayed as wanting the best of everything in her homes, her artwork, her jewelry. To me, it seems it was an obsession. According to the author’s notes at the end, none of this was embellished.

I must give kudos to Ms. Pataki for the enormous amount of research that was done to put this story on paper. It made for a fascinating story.

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