Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Review: A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler (audio)

Title: A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Narrator: Barrie Kreinik
Published: October 2018, Macmillan Audio / St. Martin's Press
Length: 14 hours 19 minutes / 400 pages
Source: Publisher

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 9 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.

My thoughts:  I have been on a historical fiction kick lately and I am absolutely loving it. I don't know why I ever stopped, except that I went down the rabbit hole with my love of thrillers and psychological suspense novels...but you know what - I can read both and so I am slowly finding my way back to this genre that is just bursting with fantastic reads and this is just one example. 

This happens to be my first time reading anything by Therese Anne Fowler, but I can tell you, it definitely will not be my last - I loved the way she told this story of Alva Smith. I was captivated, and while I admit to not knowing anything about her, I felt I did at the end of this novel. She came to life in this book, as did all the characters. 

I loved that Alva was such a strong female in her own times...she is certainly a force to be reckoned with! I loved that she clearly had no intention of just being arm candy for her husband, merely hosting and attending fancy balls and raising well-behaved children. Oh no...that was not what she was going to do! She had other ideas in mind, putting her smarts to use to help those less fortunate and getting involved in women's suffrage. She really has quite a remarkable story - and I definitely plan on reading more about her...this is why I love reading historical fiction - it makes me want to learn more about a person or topic!

I loved this book and I loved how the Gilded Age came alive under Therese Anne Fowler's descriptive and beautiful writing. I cannot wait to read more from this author, and definitely plan on reading more about the characters mentioned in this novel. Do you ever do that - read more about a topic or the people from a book?

Audio thoughts: The audio of this book was excellent. Barrie Kreinik made this story come to life, giving each character their own unique voice and personality. The accents and nuances really made a difference and I found this to be such a pleasant listening experience. 



  1. Sounds like a woman of many parts!
    Thank you for a wonderful update on an author and book I knew nothing about.


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