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Therese Anne Fowler’s 2013 bestselling novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald was an astonishing piece of literature. Fowler’s descriptions of 1940s Savannah, Georgia were absolutely delicious. I even enjoyed the Amazon adaptation (RIP).
Because of Z, I was very excited for Fowler’s 2018 follow-up, A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts.
My knowledge of Gilded Age America is, admittedly, a little lacking so I did quite a bit of Googling while listening to this audiobook. Just like Z, Fowler’s in-depth research has paid off in the form of a rich and vibrant novel that was very enjoyable to read. While Fowler’s last novel was based in the glittering world of the 1920s, the rich lifestyles found in A Well-Behaved Woman aren’t built on a castle of sand. Instead, the lead character of Alva Vanderbilt goes from being well-connected but poor to rich and then to very rich. We’re talking hard-to-comprehend rich.
The one disappointment of this novel is probably my own fault because of my heightened expectations. Alva’s story covers nearly her entire life so there was a lot less time for lush setting descriptions in this novel compared to Z. Although Fowler does a commendable job of bringing the glitz and glam to every party and social event in the book (and there are lots), I could’ve used a few more setting and style details. However, I do realize doing so would have added to the book’s page count considerably.
This book is chockablock with familiar names fashioned into lively characters, many of them frustrating and flawed. A Well-Behaved Woman is a comfortable step into the prickly world of Gilded Age wealth, privilege, and the evolving world of the late 19th century.
RATING: 4/5 stars