Fowler does strong women really, really well. I loved her “Z”, a story of Zelda Fitzgerald. I’ve been looking forward to this new historical novel based on the life of Alva Vanderbilt.
“When they asked her about the Vanderbilts and Belmonts, about their celebrations and depredations, the mansions and balls, the lawsuits, the betrayals, the rifts-when they asked why she did the extreme things she’d done, Alva said it all began quite simply: Once there was a desperate young woman whose mother was dead and whose father was dying almost as quickly as his money was running out. It was 1874. Summertime. She was twenty-one years old, ripened unpicked fruit rotting on the branch”
The novel begins with Alva Smith and her sisters left destitute after the Civil War. Their father is on his death bed. None of the young women is married. Marriage is the only thing Alva sees that will raise the family back up. It doesn’t matter if you have a good name; not when you have nothing to feed that family with.
Along comes William Vanderbilt, newly wealthy, actually filthy rich. Alva snags him with the help of friends. Her good name, his big fat wallet. But the Vanderbilts are ignored by society. People such as the Astor’s will not give them the time of day; new money. But once Mrs. Astor shows up at Alva’s unbelievably stunning costume ball in her new mansion on Fifth Avenue, well the rest is history. I have to tell you that I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve read about a lot of parties, but, the party Alva throws back in 1883 is the most brilliant, sparkling, over-the-top, dazzling ball I’ve ever experienced. I think you’ll be dazzled too.
Oh, I almost forgot, when Alva’s family could not get a box at The Academy of Music, well, she founded The Met. Boom!! Money can buy so much. But can it buy happiness?
Alva’s world is filled with a cheating husband, lots of scandal, and finally a stunning divorce.
This is a great book for clubs as it has so much to talk about. Power, love, women’s suffrage, architecture, and lovely clothes, jewelry and furnishings. It will transport you into such a lavish world of riches. And it’s totally based on the real life adventure of Alva Vanderbilt Belmont.
“With a nod to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, 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.”
My finished copy came from St. Martin’s press in exchange for an honest review. Another stunning historical novel from Therese Anne Fowler. We have copies of A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN at Copperfish Books. Discounted 20% off with in-store purchase, and ready to be read. Hope to see you soon!