Review / Savage Grace by Natalie Robins

Pages: 499 / Publishing: Simon & Schuster / Buy here

A spellbinding tale of money and madness, incest and matricide, Savage Grace is the saga of Brooks Baekeland, heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune; his beautiful wife Barbara; and their handsome, gentle son, Tony, who destroyed the whole family in a violent chain of events. (source: Simon & Schuster)

Savage Grace is a true crime novel by Natalie Robins in which she investigates the murder of Barbara Baekland who got killed by her son Anthony in their luxurious London apartment in 1972. She unravels a story out of a Hollywood movie, full of jetsetting, intrigues and fatal love.

I had the sense of a small little family, a couple and their lonely boy, who were sort of misplaced out of some Scott Fitzgerald novel. Barbara and Brooks seemed a bit like Daisy and Tom Buchanan but in a different era and somewhat fish out of water for that reason.

Brooks and Barbara Baekland may seem like the perfect couple to an outsider, but behind closed doors – and sometimes even in front of dinner guests – they fight and destroy each other in heated arguments. Standing inbetween is Anthony who soon becomes his mother’s best friend and confidante, rather than son. What might have begun as a surrogate relationship for Barbara’s failing marriage, evolves into madness.

Through official documents and extracts from conversations Robins had with friends and acquaintances of the Baekelands, she develops a loosely linked story of the years between Hendrik Leo Baekeland’s famous discovery and the demise of his descendants. Robins gives space to rumours, renarrations and corrections, displays examples of Brooks and Tony’s literary attempts and tries to illuminate every dark corner of their fascinating, tragic life.

Although Robins‘ novel somewhat drags along in several parts of the story due to the amount of statements and background material she includes, her work doesn’t fail to respond to my Fitzgerald-roused excitement for rich people’s American Dream gone mad.


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