A Well-Behaved Woman

The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in 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 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, 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.

 

 

Early praise for A Well-Behaved Woman:

“In another writer’s hands, Alva Vanderbilt’s immense wealth and carefully calculated life might have proved barriers to readerly sympathy. But Fowler’s portrait is so nuanced, so complicated by context, and so informed by her own capacious generosity that we can’t help being drawn in. A Well-Behaved Woman is a deeply and sympathetically imagined guess as to who Alva might have been. This is a wonderful book!”

Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of six novels including The Jane Austen Book Club and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and three short story collections. She has been the recipient of a PEN/Faulkner Award and short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. 

 

A Well-Behaved Woman is a gem: a fascinating tale of Gilded Age manners and mores, and one remarkable woman’s attempts to transcend them. Therese Anne Fowler, the immensely gifted writer who gave us all new insights into Zelda Fitzgerald in her novel, Z, has done it again for Alva Vanderbilt Belmont.”

Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times bestselling Author of The Flight Attendant

 

“To step into Therese Anne Fowler’s stunning novel is to step into Alva Vanderbilt’s rarefied world of sprawling homes, delicious society intrigue, and incomparable Gilded Age luxury. But there’s so much more to this world than appearances would indicate–as Alva and the reader both learn. Fowler’s heroine is drawn with care and complexity, a woman of exquisite taste and depth, and one who dares to dream beyond the stifling role which society has assigned her.”

Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress

 

“Activist, egalitarian, philanthropist, trailblazer— these are the qualities of a historic leader. In A Well-Behaved Woman, Therese Anne Fowler illuminates the leading legacy of American heiress Alva Vanderbilt. Alva’s gumption and glamour will resonate with modern women and remind all that history belongs to those who courageously persevere. A sparkling, powerful story that needs to be heard now more than ever.”

Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of Marilla of Green Gables and The Baker’s Daughter

 

“I always think that the best biographical novels reveal a life we never expected to know, and here, in Fowler’s jaw-droppingly brilliant A Well-Behaved Woman, she uncovers Alva Smith, who was supposed to be proper and conventional, but instead she not only launched the Vanderbilt’s Gilded Age dynasty, but dug in her heels to defy her times in ways that were nothing short of revolutionary.  Not just breathtakingly alive, but dazzlingly and profoundly timely. A must-read masterpiece.”

Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including Pictures of You, Is This Tomorrow, and Cruel Beautiful World

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