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  • Must read historical fiction

    I have not read many books set in the Gilded Age or about the Vanderbilts and Astors so I went into this book without knowing any of the history. That makes me sad to say but I can say now that I have read every single word of The Social Graces and now have knowledge and history of a time in American were New York Society was in a fight for their Queen. Both families were rich, very rich, yet they could not accept each other. I was intrigued at how much pressure the families were under just to stay within the society of New York. They had to do everything right knowing that one misstep could push them out of society. It seemed that everything they did had an ulterior motive. Alva Vanderbilt wanted in so badly and Caroline Astor wanted her to stay out just as badly. I enjoyed watching them both make their plans, set up their parties, and take the steps needed to live the lives that they felt they deserved. I found it interesting that there were many times that they questioned what they were doing but felt that they had no choice because it was what was expected of them. Renee Rosen is a go-to historical fiction author for me. I always recommend her to other readers.

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  • High Society!

    Before I officially begin writing my review on historical fiction author Renee Rosen's novel The Social Graces, I open with these two words: "High Society". This is my second read by this author, and wasn't disappointed. My first read by this author was Windy City Blues. In The Social Graces, we're introduced to the very sophisticated late 1800s (Gilded Age) in NYC/Newport (Rhode Island) and allowed a glimpse past the 'curtain' into the lavish rivalry between the Astors & Vanderbilts for control over society . . . Oh, how I would love to have been a fly on the wall during this time, and witness this first hand and be invited to one of the very sophisticated balls, dinner parties, etc. I liked how the author separated this novel into various parts to make the following of time much easier. I have explained more about this below: The Seasons: 1876-1878 The Society: 1880-1884 The Four Hundred: 1890-1894 Society as We've Known It: 1894-1908 As well, not only did the author separate this novel into the sections as mentioned above, but she also had the chapters alternating between the viewpoints of Caroline Astor (nee Schermerhorn) and Alva Vanderbilt (nee Smith), but also very ingeniously included the viewpoint of "Society". The author did a very good job of describing the luxuriousness of Mrs. Astor's parties, and fancy events. Below I've included a phrase which I think suits well: "Sixty round tables with gilded chairs were stationed on the lawn, overlooking the cliffs. Each table was graced with a white damask tablecloth, the edges fluttering in the breeze, the napkins weighted down with fourteen-karat gold cherub rings. A spread of silverware flanked the china at the place settings, and a dozen American Beauties sat at the center of each table". The main theme of this novel I found was the high importance of being recognized but also accepted into society or as I call it "the inner circle". Below is a quote from the novel which I believe defines "society" as in the eyes of the Astor and Vanderbilt women: "Society was the only area where women didn't have to answer to men. They had created their own little world, governed by their own rules, set in place by their own rulers. It was the only realm where she could hope to have any say about anything at all. If she wanted respect, if she wanted power, she had to make her way in society". If you're at all interested in seeing images of these homes/cottages in Newport, Rhode Island, I suggest you google "The Breakers" or "Marble House". You'll be floored by the details inside and outside. You'll also find many fascinating articles on the Gilded Age as well. I enjoyed the fact that the author showed the regal sides of Mrs. Astor & Mrs. Vanderbilt, but also showed the more humane side of these women; that they're just like the rest of us despite their high class lifestyle. In the end, I recommend this novel if you're at all interested in what life would've been like during the Gilded Age and you want to catch a glimpse into the glamour of this feud between these two families. Quite interesting!

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