Review of A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
I loved this; Fowler strikes a realistic balance between Alva's frivolity and meaningful growth and explores her important role in the women’s suffrage movement.
The detail of the time Fowler manages to capture in A Well-Behaved Woman is truly wonderful, both in the surroundings and the rigid views of the period about women, marriage, sex, politics, public and private behavior—and of course *society,* which almost served as a main character in this book, it so constantly shaped behavior, views, marriage and divorce decisions, and everything else.
Alva Vanderbilt emerges a strong feminist, but at times before she rises from the ashes, her thoughts and comments are so superficial, they almost hurt to read.
But Fowler did an excellent job of delving into the all-consuming obsessions the desperate young Alva likely had with appearances and others’ opinions in order to grasp and keep hold of her position as a Vanderbilt. As she grows as a person, in her perspective on the world, and in her role and responsibilities within it, Alva questions being a slave to society, money, and expectations. She still loves architecture, fashion, and travel—and secures a financially stable future for her daughter in an era when husbands hold the money and the power.
Fowler strikes a realistic balance between what feels frivolous and what is Ava's meaningful growth, including her important role in the women’s suffrage movement. I loved it!
What did you think?
Fowler also wrote A Good Neighborhood, which I had some issues with, although the topics at its heart are enormously important.
She's also the author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, which sounds promising, but I haven't read it.