Review: The Social Graces by Renee Rosen

Renee Rosen is an author who has been on my radar for years but one of her books just hasn’t found it’s way onto my nightstand yet! Last spring I was part of the cover reveal for this one and ever since then I have been dying to read this one. That cover is absolutely stunning and I love a well done historical fiction novel.

The historical fiction genre is flooded with books set in WWII and the Tudor period so a book like this one stands out as unique simply for the time period it’s set in. Plus the lush backdrop of the uber rich promises something entirely different and feels like a decadent read. I haven’t read a lot of books on the Vanderbilts or the Astors but I of course know the family names and some of their history.

I was eager to check this one out because I hoped to read something that was fairly historically accurate about families that I know some history about but that might dive in deeper to their lives. Plus I won’t say no to a high society gossip read! I sat down to read this one, that was slightly on the longer side (400 ish pages) and was transported. I read it in a couple of days and enjoyed all the Gilded Age had to offer in this one!

Summary

The author of Park Avenue Summer throws back the curtain on one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor’s notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

In the glittering world of Manhattan’s upper crust, where wives turn a blind eye to husbands’ infidelities, and women have few rights and even less independence, society is everything. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor—the Mrs. Astor.

But times are changing.

Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America’s richest families. But what good is money when society refuses to acknowledge you? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.

Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this is a gripping novel about two fascinating, complicated women going head to head, behaving badly, and discovering what’s truly at stake. (summary from Goodreads)

Review

Rosen has an absolutely wonderful story telling style! It beautiful without being over the top or flowery. Her writing felt genuine and intelligent. I loved how well researched the characters and the history was. I don’t know how much was fictionalized, but many of the historical elements meshed with what I know of the era and families. The characters felt fully realized and historically preserved and I loved reading about all the rules the women had to follow. I mean I know women have historically had to adhere to strict social rules depending on their status so this book did a great job highlighting those rules and constraints. I adored the descriptions of the gowns and society events as well! All the descriptions in this book felt accurate and opulent in the way that I expected from a book of this period.

This book is told through Caroline and Alva but what I really liked about this one was that the Society had it’s own clear voice in the narrative. I thought that was a unique perspective to add into this novel. Often in historical fiction, we get one or two POVs and through them we can explore ‘society’ and it’s various constraints but in this one the author gives the Society it’s own voice in the story which was unique for me and I really liked it and thought it added a lot to the story. I often found myself wondering what it would be like to live in a lifestyle or society like that. It sounded positively exhausting. All the opulence and riches, while a nice bonus, didn’t buy happiness and the author does a great job highlighting that in this book.

The author did a ton of research and this book spans over a good chunk of time. Her research skills and the way she incorporated all her knowledge and research into the novel really made it sparkle like a diamond at a society party! I have been in a reading slump lately and this book pulled me out of it and gave me all the feelings. It was well written, entertaining, and just wonderful. I will definitely be reading more by Rosen in the future. If you love historical fiction, you NEED this one on your radar!

Book Info and Rating

Format 400 pages, Paperback

Published April 20, 2021 by Berkley 

ISBN9781984802811 (ISBN10: 198480281X)

Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 5 stars

Genre: historical fiction

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