Review: A Well-Behaved Woman
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...
One of the reasons I love to read historical fiction is because it mentally transports me to a different place and time - a place and time I love to read about and visualize but so happy I wasn't apart of. I couldn't even imagine being forced to marry someone just because of their lineage.
I wasn't very well-versed on the history of The Gilded Age and the Vanderbilts before I read this book. I have to say, this was the most thrilling and enjoyable history lesson I've ever had. Every word on every page was put there with a purpose and it was such a pleasure to read this book. Everything was described to perfection, from the amount of intricate detail on one's gown to the furnishings in one of the Vanderbilt's Petit Chateau.
It took me almost my entire Sunday to read it from the first page to the last but it was well worth it. As a character, I admire Alva for what she had to endure and overcome. As a real-life historical figure, I was completely moved by her story and her resilience.
I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.