written by Simon Sobo
published by Simon Sobo
Why did I pick this book: I was asked by the publicist to review this book. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)
Did I enjoy this book: I did.
Mr. Sobo has two golden nuggets in his debut novel, Commodore. First, it’s a great story and second, it’s one we’ve not heard before. BAM! Doesn’t get any better than that.
The descriptions of this book will tell you it’s a story based on the life of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt. I’ll go one step further and tell you it’s the story of the American dream. And not that cleaned-up, sparkly version we see in The Great Gatsby (no disrespect – I Love The Great Gatsby). This is early Capitalism in all its ruthless glory.
Commodore Vanderbilt is gritty, persistent and focused to the point of being obsessed with “winning.” But it’s not enough to just be ahead. He has to (his words) “beat the sh*t” out of them, stomp them into the ground, destroy the competition.
Vanderbilt is not a likeable character. He’s an admirable character. And he’s got a few good lessons for a modern reader. We live in a time where Americans complain that the American dream is dead. It’s too hard.
Vanderbilt’s story shows us that it’s always been hard. This guy overcomes ridiculous hurdles, works like a maniac, sacrifices relationships, and never gives up.
Would I recommend it: First, I should point out that if books got ratings like movies, Commodore would receive a strong R rating. I’m pretty sure that Sobo is tied with rapper, Eminem for the highest number of “f words” in a single work of art. So I recommend it for adults. I think it would be a great pick for book groups, history buffs, people hoping to make a buck, anyone who still believes in the American dream, and anyone who doesn’t.
Will I read it again: I will not.
About the book – from Goodreads: It is 1876. As Cornelius Vanderbilt lies close to death in his lavish New York townhouse, there’s an almost carnival-like atmosphere outside as the reporters who made him a household name gather to wait for the end. But in the last of a lifetime of surprises, cantankerous old Vanderbilt unexpectedly allows one of the journalists inside. He’s tired of the lies. He intends to make sure his story is told, the true story of how a dirt-poor farm kid from Staten Island grew up to be one of America’s first tycoons: admired by the public, consulted by Presidents, feared by his business rivals and, for the most part, unloved by the eleven children he treated with impatience. At first the reporter is only interested in the core of the story, how a boy groomed by an illiterate father in a family that has been plagued by poverty and misfortune, could end up the richest man in the world. How did that happen? “My readers want to know,” he tells the crusty old man. “What’s your secret?” Was it shrewdness? Ferocious ambition? The incredible force of his will? Vanderbilt tells his story with the clarity that comes from looking back. It is as if it had all been preordained by Vanderbilt’s vision. He was a man possessed. He described himself as crazy on the subject of money. He thought of little else every day, morning, noon and night. How to make money drove all of his decisions, led him wherever that question pointed.
Soon, however, another dynamic emerges. The reporter realizes he’s on to the biggest scoop of his career. Vanderbilt’s original intention may have been a final effort to shape his legacy, but as he moves closer to death he tosses away all inhibitions. Memories pour out of him. He’s trying to get a handle on them, make sense of it all. He is half way to hell. He has stopped sleeping. Nightmares startle him awake. They’re always about the same thing, his father coming to kill him Drawing on his wealth of experience as a psychiatrist, observing the complex streams running through the human psyche, which can thrive under unimaginable adversity, Simon Sobo paints a fascinating portrait of the powerful driven man who called himself Commodore.