BKMT READING GUIDES

The Social Graces
by Renée Rosen

Published: 2021-04-20T00:0
Paperback : 416 pages
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The author of Park Avenue Summer throws back the curtain on one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Alva Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor's notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

1876. In the glittering world of Manhattan's upper crust, a woman’s value ...

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Introduction

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

1876. In the glittering world of Manhattan's upper crust, a woman’s value comes from her pedigree, dowry, and most importantly, her connections. They have few rights and even less independence—what they do have, is society, and society is paramount. 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 dizzying wealth 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 the mesmerizing story of two fascinating, complicated women going head to head, behaving badly, and discovering what’s truly at stake.

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Excerpt

"Pray to God. She will help you."--Alva Vanderbilt

Prologue
Society
1876

They call us the fairer sex. Something we find flattering and maddening in equal measure. Dainty. Delicate. Weak. Come now, if a man donned a corset, laced so tight as to shave four inches off his waist he'd pass out on the first deep breath. And need we broach the subject of childbirth? The fairer sex, our bustles. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Mother-daughter relationships play a large role in The Social Graces. What did you think of the various mother-daughter dynamics in the novel? Do you think mothers still exercise as much influence over their daughters today as they did in the Gilded Age? Do you think that in today’s world daughters are more outspoken with their mothers?

2. Alva’s best friend and her daughter’s godmother, Consuelo Yznaga, the Duchess of Manchester, has an affair with Alva’s husband. In the book, Alva says she feels her friend’s betrayal is worse than her husband’s. How do you feel about that? Is there a so-called Girl Code between friends? Do you think Alva should have forgiven Duchy?

3. Because women in the 1800s had few opportunities outside the home, they sought positions in society and took these roles very seriously. Do you find this frivolous or an act of survival? Is it fair that the opinion of one society matron could make or break some- one’s reputation?

4. When Caroline found out that her daughter Carrie had not been invited to Alva’s masquerade ball—the event of the season— Caroline was forced to pay the social call that thereby let the Vanderbilts into society. Do you think Caroline did the right thing for her daughter, or should she have stood her ground? What were your thoughts on the weight of this one gesture made by Mrs. Astor?

5. If you suddenly inherited millions of dollars, how do you think it would change your life, and what would you do with a windfall like the one Willie K. and Alva received?

6. The society pages and gossip columns were a new phenomenon in the 1880s. How do you think the press affected the behavior of the society matrons?

7. A secondary theme of this book is the relationships between sisters. We see it with Alva and her siblings as well as the Astor girls. Whether it was a matter of comradery or rivalry, how do you think these relationships influenced the characters?

8. The Gilded Age was definitely a time of the “haves and have-nots.” The divide between rich and poor was vast back in the 1800s. Do you think we’re still living in a world of “haves and have-nots”? To what extent are things different now? How are they the same?

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  "Wonderful as always"by Silversolara (see profile) 04/22/21

How can you get yourself into the upper crust of society?

We find out, and we find out it isn't always the best place to be.

Those in the upper social circles must follow all the socia



... (read more)

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