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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
The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family as they rule Gilded-Age New York, written by Therese Anne Fowler, a 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.