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.

Alva Vanderbilt

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

Jillianne Hamilton

Jillianne Hamilton is the author of three novels and one non-fiction book. Her debut novel, Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, was shortlisted for the 2016 Prince Edward Island Book Award and she is currently working on her debut historical fiction novel. Jill lives in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island with her patient husband and a mischievous corgi.


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