A Well-Behaved Woman (Review)

by Therese Anne Fowler

⭐⭐⭐⭐

The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Alva Smith, her southern family destitute after the Civil War, married into one of America’s great Gilded Age dynasties: the newly wealthy but socially shunned Vanderbilts. Ignored by New York’s old-money circles and determined to win respect, she designed and built nine mansions, hosted grand balls, and arranged for her daughter to marry a duke. But Alva also defied convention for women of her time, asserting power within her marriage and becoming a leader in the women’s suffrage movement.

With a nod to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, in A Well-Behaved Woman Therese Anne Fowler paints a glittering world of enormous wealth contrasted against desperate poverty, of social ambition and social scorn, of friendship and betrayal, and an unforgettable story of a remarkable woman. Meet Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, living proof that history is made by those who know the rules—and how to break them.

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Alva and her family are in dire straits. Her father is sick and they are out of money. It is up to her to land a wealthy husband and keep her family in the style they are accustomed. Alva marries William Vanderbilt. But, as the marriage continues Alva realizes money does not buy happiness.

Alva’s marriage is not what she imagined. The Vanderbilt’s are considered nouveau rich and they are completely shunned by the Gilded Age dynasties. She struggles to have her family accepted into society. This seems frivolous to me, however the author did an outstanding job relating this struggle and what it means to Alva. She needs to be accepted to keep her marriage. Then as time goes on and Alva grows, she understands there is more to life than society and William. She fights for what she wants and what she believes in. She is a lady before her time!

The prose of this author is outstanding. I can just picture the ladies with their parasols walking through New York shopping at Tiffany’s. The wealth in this book is phenomenal. The author portrays this alongside the vast amount of poverty in the slums of New York.

The story is a little long-winded and bogs down in the middle. But Alva with her intellect and her strength keep you absorbed in this tale till the very end.

I received this novel from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for an honest review.

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Publication date: October 16, 2018
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Language: English



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