I currently reside in Asheville, North Carolina, home to the famous Biltmore House (the largest house in America belonging to the Vanderbilt family). When I saw that this was coming out in the fall, I just had to read it.
Thank you Netgalley and St Martin’s Press for allowing me to read and review this book. I couldn’t be more thankful!
The story starts off talking about Alva Smith and her family background. We learn about her parents and siblings before we are taken into Alva’s world with the famous Vanderbilt family. She is married to William K Vanderbilt in the winter/early spring season and quickly learns what it’s like to be the wife of a millionaire. She wants her voice heard. Despite having children soon into their marriage, she makes sure to help with major architectural projects around New York City, host extravagant balls, and marry her first daughter off to a Duke. She is well-known for helping start the Woman’s Suffrage movement, but takes hard hits from the men in her life before getting there. This is a story about not only her marriage (you learn what happens to it towards the end), and her adventure in becoming a woman with a voice in a world where that was quite unheard of.
First of all, the cover is stunning! I just had to share that. Secondly, I rarely read historical fiction, so I feel that I may be more biased than most when reviewing this. I enjoyed reading Z by Fowler, and thoroughly enjoyed the Amazon Prime special created from the book. This has a similar feel to me. Because the book follows Alva’s life to almost it’s entirety, there were some details that were missed just because the book would go on forever. Unfortunately, I feel as though some of the more important details were missed that I would’ve rather spent more time reading about. For example, I am sure her feelings towards William Vanderbilt at first were mixed, and Fowler does state that, but I wanted to know more! I wanted to hear her true thoughts about him before they got married. I felt as though it was rushed. Same with experiencing life as a new mom. I wanted to know way more about how she felt at that time, and again, it was rushed. All in all, I was constantly looking up pictures online to go with the story because it added so much more character to it for me. I loved the “fight for women’s rights” feel to it and it helped enhance my experience reading this. I would read more like it, only if they focused on a specific point in her life, not as a whole.