2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 0 books toward her goal of 200 books.

Book Review: A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler

I really liked Z, the author’s first book. I found it to be a nice blend of history and fiction, an entertaining and informative read that also felt paced as a novel. I had high hopes for this new one as a result – the Vanderbilts are a fascinating family who literally went from rags to riches, and Gilded Age New York is such an intriguing time period… Robber barons, the suffrage movement, the growth of Manhattan – the era,  and this story, offered all that and more.  Yet somehow,  despite my overwhelming interest, my previous experience with the author, and the presence of a powerful female protagonist who isn’t very well known, this one just fell flat for me. 

There is a ton of description here, primarily about things: houses, items, property, clothing. I felt a little overwhelmed by the descriptions of stuff and underwhelmed by the descriptions of interpersonal relationships… 

Alva is a complex character, or at least should have been. Yet she felt a little over simplified (or at least under- described) in parts of the story, particularly those that should have been the most interesting like her subtle manipulations of the older Vanderbilts, her relationship with her ridiculous husband, and her later life and involvement in social and political causes. I enjoyed the descriptions of her family, particularly her interactions with her sisters, but even they did not feel as fleshed-out as I would have liked to see them, particularly given the incredible detail given to things like furnishings and clothing. And eek, I must admit I found it a fair bit steamier than the other, and that felt unnecessary somehow… 

Still,  Fowler’s writing style is easy to read and the book was interesting (particularly as a historical snapshot). But I must admit it felt like her areas of emphasis were skewed toward the material and away from the interpersonal in this one, and that made it a less engaging read for me overall.

My review copy was provided by NetGalley.

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