Happy Monday! Today I have a review of a much-anticipated read for me, A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Ann Fowler, and publishing via St. Martin’s Press on October 16, 2018!
A childhood visit to The Biltmore Estate will certainly add Vanderbilt intrigue to one’s list of interests, and I lapped up this story of Alva Smith Vanderbilt.
Alva Smith’s family had once known prominence but lost it all; that is, until her best friend orchestrates her union with William Vanderbilt. The latter family is new money, but not well-accepted into society.
Alva works hard for the acceptance in society she receives. If she finds a door closed, she opens a window. She pushes the envelope and puts herself, and her family, out there. She is not constrained by the notion of “goodness” or good behavior.
Alva is a hero is many senses. Because she takes a backseat to no man, certainly not her husband, she finds herself in roles women typically did not fill at the time. She helps design her mansions, she is on the front lines of the charities in which she works (not just handing over the money), and most of all, she does not turn a blind-eye to William’s infidelity. Alva is passionate about suffrage and women’s rights, and I’m grateful to have made her acquaintance through this book.
A Well-Behaved Woman is the story of a strong woman before her time who pushed boundaries and broke through them. Beautifully-written, interesting, and insightful, historical fiction fans will enjoy Alva’s take on living during the Gilded Age as a Vanderbilt.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the complimentary ARC. All opinions are my own.
The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.
In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt’s Fifth Ave. costume ball–a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family’s good name useless on its own. Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, a union contrived by Alva’s bestfriend and now-Duchess of Manchester, saved the Smiths–and elevated the Vanderbilts.
From outside, Alva seems to have it all and want more. She does have a knack for getting all she tries for: the costume ball–no mere amusement–wrests acceptance from doyenne Caroline Astor. Denied abox at the Academy of Music, Alva founds The Met. No obstacle puts her off for long.
But how much of ambition arises from insecurity? From despair? From refusal to play insipid games by absurd rules? –There are, however, consequences to breaking those rules. One must tread carefully.
And what of her maddening sister-in-law, Alice? Her husband William, who’s hiding a terrible betrayal? The not-entirely-unwelcome attentions of his friend Oliver Belmont, who is everything William is not? What of her own best friend, whose troubles cast a wide net?
Alva will build mansions, push boundaries, test friendships, and marry her daughter to England’s most eligible duke or die trying. She means to do right by all, but good behavior will only get a woman so far. What is the price of going further? What might be the rewards? There’s only one way to know for certain…
Have you read A Well-Behaved Woman, or is it on your TBR? Do you have a favorite book about the Vanderbilts, or the 1920s? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR