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A Well-Behaved Woman

A Well-Behaved Woman

‘A glittering depiction of a woman ahead of her time who absolutely refused to be second best’ Red


Alva Smith, her Southern family destitute after the Civil War, marries 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 designs and builds nine mansions, hosts grand balls, and arranges for her daughter to marry a duke. But Alva also defies convention for women of the 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, bestselling author Therese Anne Fowler paints a glittering world of enormous wealth contrasted with desperate poverty, of social ambition and social scorn, of friendship and betrayal, and an unforgettable story of a remarkable woman.


‘A very lively read’ Independent
‘A pacy, elegant novel’ Mail on Sunday
‘Wholly absorbing’ Stylist

‘Like Gossip Girl minus more than a century’ The Skimm
‘Enthralling’ Good Housekeeping



‘Brilliant. Read it, read it, read it’ Daily Mail
‘Superb’ Independent on Sunday
‘Utterly compulsive reading’ Stylist
‘A treat’ Sunday Times
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Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Historical Fiction

On Sale: 16th October 2018

Price: £8.99

ISBN-13: 9781473632509


Fowler's Alva is tough, cagey and unwilling to settle for the role of high-society ornament - what's not to like?
The Washington Post
With you-are-there immediacy fuelled by assured attention to biographical detail and deft weaving of labyrinthine intrigue, Fowler creates a thoroughly credible imagining of the challenges and emotional turmoil facing this fiercely independent woman
Like its subject, A Well-Behaved Woman draws beauty from paradox: it is both detailed and fast-paced, loving and critical, heart-breaking and hopeful
Chicago Review of Books
Nothing short of mesmerising
Sheer brilliance
Book Wars, Stylist
A very lively read . . . Fowler is particularly good at the competing voices which vie for young Alva's attention as she tries to secure a wealthy husband who will shore up the fortunes of her impoverished family.
Irish Examiner
This is a wonderful book! 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
Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Like Gossip Girl minus more than a century.
The Skimm
This novel is a treat. Fowler's attention to period detail is both mesmerising and delicately drawn and the cast of recognisable characters such as the Astors, the Mandevilles and those from the British aristocracy are intriguing. The novel offers an unsentimental, thought provoking and nuanced examination of an extraordinary life during a time where women were grossly undervalued and oppressed. Alva demanded and achieved more, altering the course of women's lives in unprecedented ways. Fowler has articulated her narrative in an utterly fascinating account of gender politics that still bears a deep resonance today. Alva's story has been resurrected and made newly unforgettable.
Irish Times
In the vein of Fowler's Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, A Well-Behaved Woman follows the rise of another unsuspecting heroine of American history: Alva Vanderbilt
Garden & Gun
Activist, egalitarian, philanthropist, trailblazer - these are the qualities of a historic leader . . . 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 and international bestselling author of Marilla of Green Gables
Sure to enthral
Harper's Bazaar
Therese Anne Fowler's portrait of this feisty, forward-thinking woman is enthralling
Good Housekeeping
Oh, how I loved every instant I spent in the world Fowler has recreated here . . . Prepare to be enthralled!
Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Couple
The story of Alva Vanderbilt is long overdue for a telling, but it was worth the wait . . . a delicious book
Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Girls in the Picture
This novel is like wallowing in a jacuzzi: relaxing and invigorating. Delightful
Irish Examiner
A very lively read . . . with Alva's social manoeuvring depicted in all its glory, along with her willingness to defy social convention as an advocate of African American rights, a divorcee and, later, a prominent campaigner for women's suffrage.
Irish News
Captivating . . . I dare you not to dive right in
Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife
Immensely readable . . . an extraordinary portrait of a strong, fascinating woman
Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of A Piece of the World
Not just breathtakingly alive, but dazzlingly and profoundly timely. A must-read masterpiece.
Caroline Leavitt, the New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
A very lively read
As accomplished as its subject, redoubtable socialite and women's suffrage crusader Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, Fowler's engrossing successor to 2013's Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, again showcases her genius for seeing beyond the myths of iconic women
Publisher's Weekly
Now's a good time to start adding to your collection of historical heroines. Alva Vanderbilt should be right up there. With A Well-Behaved Woman, Therese Anne Fowler repeats the same magic she did in her 2013 novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald: she fictionalises the story of one of American history's most fascinating women
Fascinating . . . a glittering depiction of a woman ahead of her time who absolutely refused to be second best
A pacy, elegant novel, powered by a heroine who parlays her pluck into real clout.
Mail on Sunday
In this enticing novel, Therese Anne Fowler introduces us to Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, a remarkable woman who was the epitome of the expression "well-behaved women seldom make history'
Good Housekeeping US
A fascinating tale of liberation and self-sufficiency that conjures up the work of Edith Wharton . . . a wholly absorbing tale that transports the reader to the Gilded Age of the 1800s. It's the perfect Sunday afternoon-in-bed read.
A tale well-researched and honest, it returns to Alva Smith Vanderbilt that which many historians have taken away: her voice
New York Journal of Books
A fascinating tale of Gilded Age manners and mores, and one remarkable woman's attempts to transcend them.
Chris Bohjalian, No.1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant