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Publisher's Summary

The USA Today Best Seller!

Named one of 2021’s Most Anticipated Historical Novels by Oprah Daily ∙ SheReads ∙ Frolic ∙ BookReporter ∙ and more....

The author of Park Avenue Summer throws back the curtain on one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Alva Vanderbilt and the 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, women are valued by their pedigree, dowry, and, most importantly, connections. They have few rights and even less independence - what they do have is society. 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.

©2021 Renée Rosen (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Witty and beautifully imagined...Rosen delights with breezy dialogue and keen insights into the era. Historical fans will love this." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"Rosen’s novel opens with a sly wink to that grande dame of the Gilded Age, Edith Wharton, before she deftly spins a captivating tale of her own, based upon the legendary rivalry between Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt. And what a rich story it is, full of opulent balls and monstrous mansions, yet firmly rooted in the parallel struggles of two very different heroines as they fight for their dignity and rights as wives, as mothers, and as women.” (Fiona Davis, best-selling author of GMA Book Club Pick The Lions of Fifth Avenue)

“Delightful! Prepare to be caught up in a high society feud between the Mrs. Astor and upstart Alva Vanderbilt in this wonderful novel of manners and social survival in a time before women could vote. The Social Graces is written with the talented Renee Rosen's unique blend of heart and humor and I flew through the utterly charming pages, not always sure which of these majestic women I should be rooting for.” (Stephanie Dray, New York Times best-selling author of The Women of Chateau Lafayette)

What listeners say about The Social Graces

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  • Overall
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  • mtrask
  • 27-04-2021

Excellent Story and Historical Research

I’m a sucker for historical dramas. There is nothing more fun to me than getting to know a character from the real-world past. As is necessary with historical drama, the author of this book takes some liberties with creating dialogue and full personalities for the characters using what records exist. I thought this had an excellent balance of delightful historical details and intriguing character development. Even better, the author creates a self-aware character in Alva Vanderbilt who eventually questions the gluttony of “society” during this time period and seeks charitable work. I found this book satisfying, captivating, and charming.

3 people found this helpful

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  • HistoryNerd
  • 11-05-2021

Disappointing Effort

I really enjoyed Rosen’s “Park Avenue Summer” and so when I saw “The Social Graces”, it was quickly added to my wish list. Sadly, I was underwhelmed by this mediocre chronicling of the Gilded Age’s famous rivalry between Caroline Astor (the Mrs. Astor) and Alva Vanderbilt. While it was refreshing to read a story told partially through the eyes of Caroline Astor, who (in my opinion) has been short shrift by history. Rosen probably did the best with humanizing Caroline but her characterization of Alva was weak. Too much attention was given to making Alva a whining millennial when in reality, she was a wonderfully strong anti-hero who redeemed herself in her later years. Ultimately, “The Social Graces” was weak, and this fact was only accentuated by the random, useless, and annoying Greek chorus-like interludes of an unnamed narrator. In an age where the press was chronicling every move of New York’s elite, the space devoted to “Society” would have been much better served by faithful reproductions of period newspaper articles.

The final nail in the coffin for “The Social Graces” was the overly dramatic reader who made Caroline Astor’s clashes with her strong willed daughters seem like episodes in the latest telenovela.

Altogether, Rosen could have spent more time in the world of the Gilded Age and is definitely better suited to more modern settings (“Park Avenue Summer” was set in the 1960s). If you are interested in a better written fictional account of Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, Teresa Anne Fowler’s “A Well Behaved Woman” is brilliant. Better luck next time, Ms. Rosen.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Roubliz
  • 28-06-2021

Great listen

The author brought to life this period in history and these colorful families. I don’t understand the criticism in these reviews that one narrator is bad. They are both seasoned storytellers and both did an exceptional job. Do yourself a favor and ignore the criticism about the narrator.

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  • Gia Mayes
  • 04-06-2021

Narrator is awful

Love the book, good story, but the narrator sounds like she has an echo that follows her when she reads the book. Makes it really difficult to listen to it. I love listening to books when I go to bed, and I just can’t listen to this book because it sounds like an echo as she reads.

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  • Elise
  • 24-05-2021

Returning this book early

It is full of chatter- boring conversations between women. Not much to learn here! How did the book get such rave reviews? Something amiss here.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 18-05-2021

Dramatic, Emotional

I really enjoyed the coming together of Alva and Caroline as friends. The entire story was engaging .

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  • Mary E.
  • 03-05-2021

Not my kind of subject, but

This is not a topic I like or typically read, but ... it was very well written and narrated.
I enjoyed the book and a little history.

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  • kashbrown
  • 02-05-2021

Terrible Narration

The subject matter of this book was fascinating to me but the narration is truly awful and just ruined the book for me. I returned it. Saskia Maarleveld is a talented narrator but unfortunately, the other one did most of the work.

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  • Denise R
  • 02-05-2021

I returned it

Boring and one good narrator paired with a terrible one. Ugh I lasted 15 chapters waiting fir something to happen

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  • Traci
  • 01-05-2021

Narrator voice annoying

The drawn out enunciation by the narrator made me want to stop within the 1st chapter🤑 and that there was no resolution to Lexi's narcissism made it hard to finish

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