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Book Review: Nutcracker

Nutcracker: Money, Madness, Murder: A Family Album by Shana Alexander

This 1985 true crime opus is like Virgina Andrews meets Truman Capote meets Faulkner meets Tennessee Williams on meth. This is a mad, utterly mad yet true account of Frances Schreuder a woman who was mentally ill, a drug addict, a thief, a con artist, a forger, a liar, a hoarder, a spendthrift and who abused her 3 children. She got away with all of it. Then she got one of her unfortunate children to murder her wildly rich yet miser skinflint father. In a way, she got away with that too.


This is a lurid tale of how a family were rich but didn't know it due to a patriach who didn't seem to like them. The youngest child, Frances, seems to have had borderline personality disorder which was never treated leading to lifelong implications climaxing in her inveigling her son Marc to kill his grandfather after years of relentless pressure.


Frances spent money like water, lived in fancy apartments which were squalid inside and sent her children to school undressed, unwashed and covered in injuries from beatings – nothing was ever done. She divorced twice hurling lurid allegations at her ex husbands which may or may not have been true. Neither ex ever seemed to care about their offspring. Frances was totally irresponsible, always did utterly the wrong thing and had no sense of gratitude.


Frances had a significant negative impact on everyone, yet her mother was devoted to her truly dreadful daughter until the end. There was colluding, theft, fraud, allegations and Frances Schreuder had an obsession with the New York City Ballet and the famous George Balanchine. It is absoluetly extraordinary and disgraceful how she went to the ballet while under investigation for murder and gave her murdered father's stolen money to the NYCB.


The whole family seems greedy, malevolent and nuts. Neither of her 2 sisters seemed concerned that she abused and neglected her children. All the sisters cared about was their father's will and the family trust. People acted acrimoniously and with vindictiveness and with truly horrifying selfishness. There was incessant feuding and this notorious case spawned this book, a rival book entitled 'At Mother's Request' and 2 rival minseries'. The miniseries based on this book stared Lee Remick in full throttle as Frances Bradshaw Schreuder.


Frances Bradshaw Schreuder was expelled from Bryn Mawar, tried to mould her daughter 'Ariadne' (a pseudoname) into a ballerina and was a virulent racist and anti-semitic. In fact, she and her 2 sons and others spewed regular racist outbursts about POC and Jews which are reproduced without comment or censure. After her daughter's conviction for murder, the dead man's widow left all her money to her in her will and then went on holiday to South Africa during apartheid!


The murdering son, Marc, in an effort to get him to testify against his mother was taken out of jail, fed chicken mcnuggets and allowed to go see 'Return Of The Jedi'! Frances Schreuder entirely funded the ballet 'Davidsbundlertanze'. She burned up with resentment at her miser father, changed her children's names and made dramatic and obviously attention seeking fake suicide attempts.


Franklin Bradshaw worked all hours of the week, was never home and was a massive skinflint. Why he was like this is never explained. But his youngest daughter fought him to the grave and beyond for the money she wanted. After this book was published, Marc and his mother were released. While her 3 children live annoymous lives and aren't close, their mother is now dead – her chainsmoking habit caught up with her.


This is a compelling tale of a vile woman and a squalid procession of events. Nobody much mourned Franklin Bradshaw. Even after his death, all his family could talk about was his money. This was very good and tragic.


Best Lines:

“Get everything she wanted always.”


“Guardians of social order?”


“Absolutely no other choice.”


“A privilege she had no hesitation about invoking.”


“No awareness of the inappropriateness of her own behaviour.”


“Formenting trouble.”


“Waiting for Granny to come up with more bail money.”


“Aimless lives.”


“A new Sleeping Beauty such as the world had not seen since the days of the Tsars.”


“And others encouraged her to think this way.”


“A skinflint father, parastic mother, hateful sisters.”


“Extraordinary unpleasantness.”


“Baroque consequences.”


“Evil thoughts in her mind.”


“Union types enjoy an unsavory reputation.”


“In a Burger King, pulling out a gun is not a good idea.”


“Feared the poor opinions of her neighbors,”


“Didn't want to be bothered with her.”


“Unseen enemies.”


“Malign influence.”


“Vulgar publicity.”


“Not favorably impressed.”


“Damned and doomed family.”


“High potential for painful consequences.”

Tags: 2nd hand book store find, book review
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