THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
'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
*PRAISE FOR Z: A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD, A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER*
'Brilliant. Read it, read it, read it' Daily Mail
'Superb' Independent on Sunday
'Utterly compulsive reading' Stylist
'A treat' Sunday Times
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. In 1874, 21-year-old Alva Smith and her three sisters have impeccable antecedents but no money. Marrying well being the only way to keep her family secure, Alva sets her sights on railroad scion William K. Vanderbilt. Her effort pays off William inherits $65 million in 1885 though she finds neither love nor sexual pleasure with her amiable, self-absorbed husband. Wealth offers scope for Alva's formidable leadership skills: in the same years she bears three children, wins the parvenu Vanderbilts a position in elite society, and collaborates with architect Richard Hunt on a series of influential projects. Impeccably virtuous and self-disciplined, Alva nevertheless faces frequent censure for her lack of feminine deference, particularly when, in her 40s, she refuses to ignore her husband's infidelity. Instead, she negotiates a divorce, weathers the scandal, and finds new fulfillment. The novel doesn't sentimentalize its subject's unsympathetic moments and qualities, and Fowler puts Alva in a clear context, revealing the narrow constraints of her era, class, and gender, and the fierce courage and creativity with which she negotiated them. Though the novel's lavish sweep and gorgeous details evoke a vanished world, Fowler's exploration of the way powerful women are simultaneously devalued and rewarded resonates powerfully. 100,000-copy announced first printing.