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I listened to the audiobook and came away inclined to reply in conversations using the haughty tone and proscribed vocabulary of turn-of-the century, upper-crust socialites. It was a convincing reading with a wide variety of well-developed characters. The story itself is based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt. While it is historical fiction, the reality of the lives of the 1% of that time is like fantasy. The many extravagant mansions (5), the elaborate gowns, the frequent, first class junkets abroad, the numbers of household staff, the strict requirements of a certain social level...all hardly of the earth the bulk of us know! The realities of their extremely privileged lives had costs but it was all a marvel to read about. I couldn't help thinking of today's 1%. Alva is presented as a complicated figure, both fearful of her family's lost fortune and her future; bold, assertive, while slave to and rebellious against, the rules of propriety. A well written, absorbing look at a distant time and stratum of social life. — Heather Bellanca
“In her lifetime, Alva Smith Vanderbilt goes from being a Have to a Have-Not to a Have-It-All. Not content to just build spectacular mansions and host fabulous high-society balls, she uses her status and immense wealth to help the poverty-stricken, promote racial equality, and advocate for women’s rights in the courts and voting booths. As she did in Z, Therese Anne Fowler digs beyond the sensational and scandalous newspaper headlines and brings depth to her protagonist to show us a life well-lived.”
— Nancy Baenen, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI