By Renée Rosen
An Informative and Interesting Story of the Rivalry Between the Astor and the Vanderbilt Women
Alva Smith of Mobile, Alabama has recently married into the Vanderbilt’s, one of America’s richest families. She is still getting use to their exorbitant tastes, and the fact that despite their wealth the Vanderbilts were looked down upon by the likes of the Astors and other Knickerbocker families. Alva, who came from having nothing, will do whatever it takes to elevate the family’s social standing. But she is thwarted at every move by Caroline Astor, the most powerful hostess in New York. Mrs. Astor refuses to invite the Vanderbilts to her lavish parties; allow them on the board of her Opera House; or even receive Alva at her home. Based on true event, Mrs. Vanderbilt battles to be recognized and accepted by Mrs. Astor for over three decades.
THE SOCIAL GRACES by Renée Rosen is a much appreciated historical fiction novel of the Gilded Age in New York between 1876 to 1908. It’s a time of entitlement, opulence, lavish parties and greed.
Rosen’s writing skillfully transports into the beautiful homes and parties in both Newport and New York. She brings Alva and Caroline to life through their obsession with society, their reactions to gossip, and their never-ending family dramas of husband infidelities and daughters who refuse to marry the man picked for them.
The story was interesting and extremely well-researched. I appreciated the strength of Rosen’s characters, particularly the determined Alva. The story is told from alternating chapters from not one, not two but three perspectives, Alva’s, Caroline’s and Society’s. The Society chapters seemingly added little value and disrupted the flow of the story
Rosen does a good job infusing fact with fiction to create an entertaining and enlightening story. Clarity for the differentiation between invention and reality is provided in her Author’s Notes, which is a vital component for historical fiction novels about actual people and events.
Rosen lives in Chicago. Her previous novels include Park Avenue Summer is the bestselling author of Park Avenue Summer, Windy City Blues, White Collar Girl, What the Lady Wants and Dollface.
Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Published April 20, 2021