A Well-Behaved Woman — Therese Anne Fowler
An intriguing glimpse into the life of the Vanderbilt family. Fowler had done a great job in bringing the family to life in a very relatable way. The story focuses on Alva, who married into the family to give them “acceptability” with the “old money” crowd. She proved to be a dynamo who led the Vanderbilts to the heights of power in the right social circles. But when push comes to shove, she had the courage to break rigid norms and do the right thing — for herself and to help the less fortunate.
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.