This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the…

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts (2018)

by Therese Anne Fowler

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
16420109,138 (3.86)7
  1. 00
    That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: In these fictional biographies, ambitious women marry high-profile men and are flung into the public eye. Full of vivid period detail, these novels span decades and shed light on the social issues of the time.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 7 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
A fictional rendering of Alva Smith Vanderbilt life provided hours of delight and enjoyment. Alva Smith had the breeding and “savoir faire” that the Vanderbilt family needed to enter New York society. A determined Alva Smith married William K Vanderbilt and launched the family into New York society. Alva grows talons to claw her family into the best parties and circles. The story centers on New York in the late 1890’s when the world jumped into new conveniences and pleasures. Amid all the changes, women fought to gain the right to vote, which happened in 1920. Therese Anne Fowler presents a vivid and disciplined Alva in a remarkable story. Alva fought for suffrage, aided in the building and designing of her houses, campaigned for the underdog, and divorced her husband. Alva worked extremely hard in her crusades for other people. Many parts of the story seem frivolous, such as the attention given to fashion and decorum. The story shows the many facets of an extremely rich woman. ( )
  delphimo | May 20, 2019 |
A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN is a story about the notorious Alva Vanderbilt who married a rich man to save herself and her sisters from destitution. Once Alva Smith lived a prosperous life, but that was until their fortune was lost. She has to wed really well and she catches the eye of William Vanderbilt from the very rich, but socially outcast Vanderbilts. Alva is hell-bent on getting herself and the Vanderbilts everything they want, no matter the cost. But, can all the money in the world buy her the happiness she wants?

  MaraBlaise | May 19, 2019 |
This was a wonderful book. I had just visited the Mansions in Newport so reading about Alva all over again was fun. Knowing this is a book of fiction, I will have to check a few details about the end of the book, but won't mention them here so as to not spoil anything for other readers. Enjoy! ( )
  mchwest | Mar 20, 2019 |
I read this one for an online book club I participate in. I’d heard good things about it, but didn’t have it high on my to read list, so I probably would not have gotten to it for a long time. That would have been sad, because I very much enjoyed the book.

This is historical fiction based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont. Alva came from a good family, a well-respected family, but a family that had suffered financial reversals. Her mother was dead and her father quite ill, so Alva and her younger sisters had no means of support. Alva saw it as her duty to marry well so that her sisters would not go hungry. She set her sights on Willam Vanderbilt, a son of the wealthy Vanderbilt family. Unlike the Smiths, the Vanderbilts had plenty of money, but no social standiing. All of their money could not buy their way into High Society, led by Mrs. Astor. Consequently, William was all for a marriage with Alva, who he saw as the ticket to his family’s entrance into society.

The bulk of the story takes place during the years of Alva’s marriage to William, and her journey into the upper ranks of society. It is a fascinating look into the workings of high society at the time; who was out and who was in, marriages of convenience, unfaithfulness, and partying. The Vanderbilts were know for building lavish mansions, some of which still stand today. Alva was very involved in the design of her family’s mansion, and reading the details of the planning and architecture were fascinating. (I’ve added The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home, the story of Willam’s brother Georges home, Biltmore, to my reading list!)

I learned a lot from reading this novel—a keynote of good historical fiction for me. I had not realized that the Vanderbilts were not considered ‘good enough’ to be admitted into upper echelons of society. And while I knew the name Vanderbilt, I mostly knew them as a wealthy family whose descendants include Gloria Vanderbilt and her son, Anderson Cooper. I was not aware that many of the well-known institutions of today are associated with them—Vanderbilt University, Madison Square Gardens, the Belmont Stakes (this is actually associated with Alva’s second husband), among them.

After the death of her second husband, Alva became involved in the women’s sufferage movement, however the book barely touches on this aspect of Alva’s life. While she was well-respected by suffragettes, it seems others did not hold her in high esteem. I would have liked to have learned more about this aspect of her life.

This will make a great selection for book clubs, both those that want to have a serious discussion about social mores of the day and those that are just looking for a fun read!

I read a ebook copy of this book that I borrowed from the library ( )
  Time2Read2 | Jan 26, 2019 |
I'm not certain why I've never encountered Alva Smith Vanderbilt before, but I'm glad I've read a bit about her now - what a woman and what a life! I was impressed by Alva so many times during this novel, especially that she divorced her husband on her terms (and in the nineteenth century no less). I believe there's a novel soon to be published on her daughter Consuelo and I'm looking forward to spending more time with this impressive lady and her spirited daughter. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jan 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

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.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.86)
2 2
3 9
3.5 5
4 19
4.5 2
5 8

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 135,659,221 books! | Top bar: Always visible