Publish Date: 10/16/18
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
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.
In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt’s Fifth Ave. costume ball–a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family’s good name useless on its own. Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, a union contrived by Alva’s bestfriend and now-Duchess of Manchester, saved the Smiths–and elevated the Vanderbilts.
From outside, Alva seems to have it all and want more. She does have a knack for getting all she tries for: the costume ball–no mere amusement–wrests acceptance from doyenne Caroline Astor. Denied abox at the Academy of Music, Alva founds The Met. No obstacle puts her off for long.
But how much of ambition arises from insecurity? From despair? From refusal to play insipid games by absurd rules? –There are, however, consequences to breaking those rules. One must tread carefully.
And what of her maddening sister-in-law, Alice? Her husband William, who’s hiding a terrible betrayal? The not-entirely-unwelcome attentions of his friend Oliver Belmont, who is everything William is not? What of her own best friend, whose troubles cast a wide net?
Alva will build mansions, push boundaries, test friendships, and marry her daughter to England’s most eligible duke or die trying. She means to do right by all, but good behavior will only get a woman so far. What is the price of going further? What might be the rewards? There’s only one way to know for certain…
I wanted to like this more than I did but it was a little contradictory for me. Alva, a supported of women’s sufferage, is a little hypocritical for me throughout the book. She wants to be in charge of her destiny but so heavily relies on her husband and his family to push her movement. Without the Vanderbilt family, she would not be able to push her views. With that being said, she does stand up to the family and make movements towards the sufferage movement but I feel like it is a little ironic that she is able to only after she is tied to her husband and his family. This could be what the author wanted to show for the time period.
The writing felt a little sporadic and jumpy for me. It moved quickly through time which is expected for a book that is spanning throughout so many years but it felt choppy and unnatural in moving forward for me. I fam sure that Fowler wanted to stay as true to the story and time periods as possible but I just felt like there could be more in certain chapters without jumping years ahead at the drop of a dime.
As historical fiction is a perferred genre for me, I was hoping for a little more. I was left bored in some parts and for the first 30% of the book, I wasn’t really sure if there would ever be a point to the read. I don’t enjoy books as much that are driven more by the characters than the plot and I felt like this was going in more of a character study (which is okay for many and I should have picked up on before tackling) than more of a plot that Alva was a part of.
This may have been an issue from me because I was uninterested in much of the book but I had a hard time remembering the characters as they were all relitively uninspiring. My feelings for chapters fluctuated because things would get interesting but end fairly quickly and the next second, a new occurance would be happening that had nothing to do what was previously interesting and I again would lost interest for pages at a time.
I liked the end much more than the majority of the book. I felt compelled to finish and was excited to see what Alma was doing in the last 25% of the book. This is what seemed to be more plot driven and exciting for me but I can’t give the book anymore stars for the lack of intrigue prior to the last 25%. The book was fairly unremarkable for me. All in all I just had a really hard time enjoying this. I have seen so many rave reviews however so it could be for you!