I haven’t done a book review for quite awhile….I’ve found it difficult to concentrate on reading during COVID…strange but true. My TBR pile of hardcover books and a bulging Kindle keep staring at me. I have, of course, read my monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club features (and I must admit they have been excellent and I was in conversation with many of the authors, each throughly engaging!). I’m very happy to say I’m back to “pleasure” reading and first up, The Social Graces the new book by one of my favorite authors, Renée Rosen. I have enjoyed each of her books, her attention to detail and her extensive research is awesome! The book also happens to be my favorite genre, Historical Fiction and also a favorite period in American history, The Gilded Age….what’s not to like. Quite frankly, I liked it all.

Caroline Astor
Alva Vanderbilt

Although I thought I knew a lot about Mrs. William Backhouse Astor, Jr. (Caroline) and Mrs. William Kissam Vanderbilt (Alva) I learned so much more about these two grande dames of the New York social scene, their families, their homes, their parties, and most of all, their feuds. More importantly I realized how much has changed in society in the ensuing years and really how much has remained the same. Meaning everyone, in some way or another, wants to better themselves, be accepted, meaningfully contribute to one’s community, have a wonderful home(s), support the arts…the list goes on…and, of course, be recognized for all of it. Is it all about connections, of course it is, we call that networking today. Was it about marrying well, yes, but today’s woman has MUCH more flexibility to make her own life without the restrictions of so-called society. I do however wish we would get back to proper etiquette and proper attire, is that just me? I wonder.

The story is the tension of the established very wealthy and the brash nouveau riche. Can they learn to live with each other, will their competitive natures clash, you can bet they will. It is mainly about power. While this all seems quite trivial, wealth usually begets all manner of controversy, I have always thought of the good that can be done if money is of no object. Think of the staffs needed to maintain this lifestyle, the gorgeous residences, as well as the cultural institutions that are built, all that is involved by entertaining, going to the theater, opera, museums, patronizing couture and retail stores….all providing endless job opportunities.

I know you will enjoy this trip back in time when being the influencer rather than the influenced had a totally different connotation than it does today….or does it, some things never change. Get the book it’s fascinating.

Mrs. Astor receiving guests

Here is some timely news…on Wednesday, July 28 at 6:30 The Book Stall (by now you know that they are my Independent Bookseller of choice!) is hosting An Outdoor Live Event at Good Grapes, 821 Chestnut Court, Winnetka, with Renée Rosen. The Chicago author will discuss her new historical novel. This is a ticketed event. Click here to register.

This is not a sponsored post.


  1. savtipatti July 12, 2021 / 12:07 am

    We had Renee at our April book club!! Everyone loved the book and especially her!!

    • nenasnotes July 12, 2021 / 12:23 am

      I am very found of her books. This was a goodie!

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