A Well-Behaved Woman
Book Review - A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
I first became familiar with Therese Anne Fowler after reading her novel about Zelda Fitzgerald, Z. It then became a short-lived (but amazing!) series on Amazon starring Christina Ricci. So when I heard that Therese was coming out with a new book, this one about the Vanderbilts, I was relentless in pursuing a copy! I exhausted all of my contacts in the literary world and pestered the poor publicist until my copy arrived. And then I devoured it!
I couldn’t get enough of Alva Vanderbilt. She was certainly a woman to be reckoned with! She came from a once-wealthy family with deep roots in American society. Her father lost most of their money betting on the South in the Civil War - and we all know how that turned out. But despite his misjudgment in the financial affairs, their family maintained their status among society. In order to maintain her standard of living, however, Alva needed to marry money. And boy did she get lucky (I use that in a somewhat sarcastic sense) when William Vanderbilt came along - he needed her status in society to get into the “right” clubs. Unlike today, money couldn’t buy you everything back then. And he had more than enough money.
The story talks about Alva’s marriage to William and subsequent divorce. I don’t want to give too much away about what led to the divorce, in case you aren’t familiar with the story. It is definitely a story that would make tabloid headlines today (and really it did back then as well.) Alva gave up a lot of money and most of her friends in order to make a point about marriage. She was truly a trailblazer. Many of her friends shunned her, literally turning their backs to her when she walked in the room, after her divorce. Yet she persisted and she came out on top like she often does. She later married Oliver Belmont and was madly in love with him. He supported her pursuit of women’s right to vote. The book ends when she begins leading this movement, which only makes me want to read more about her!
I said it once, and I’ll say it again. I couldn’t get enough of Alva Vanderbilt. She was such a strong woman during a time that did not reward women for their strength. She had a love for architecture and design, something I feel like I have in common with her. She was also one of the best-dressed women in society, and I like to think with Vanderbilt money I would be too. Ha! I’ve been recommending this book to everyone and so far everyone is in agreement. This is a great book!