An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew

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Member Reviews

Allene Tew embraced life with panache and fortitude, never allowing her personal tragedies life to curtail the future! Before her story begins, we have an introduction to the immigrant experience of the Tew family who started in America with literally nothing.  But this experience shaped Allene’s love of nature and the simple life even though she later acquired financial prosperity. This is not just the story of the Tew family but is also the story of the American nation as it grew industrially and financially in significant leaps and spurts. The book passes through Victorian times and the Gilded Age, during which the Tews indirectly achieve social and financial recognition. In a sense, the Tew family’s fortunes parallel America’s growth, with its notable growth phases and its plunges downward, albeit brief.  Allene will marry five times, lose her two children and the one love of her life.  Her attitude to “loss” is startling: things happen, but one must go on, always looking to the future and not the past. This is a tribute to the Victorian and American spirit which has survived and risen above some ignominious events.  What is notable about Allene’s story are the actions she takes to obtain the finances she needs but which take second place to her total embrace of life, culture and friends.  Even her disappointments are muted as she had a surprising attitude to those who chose their own destiny: love them no matter what they do.   Relish every page of this story of fine friends, food, dress, art, design, and nature.  It’s Allene’s and America’s story! Reads like historical fiction!
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An American Princess by Annejet van der Zijl is the fascinating true story of Allene Tew. Born to a pioneering family, she would grow up to be one of the most powerful people in the Gilded Age. I’ve always been fascinated with the Gilded Age, both with novels set in this time period and the architecture that remains from then. I was excited to read this book and learn more. Readers who love history will not be disappointed. This is a very good read. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher with no obligations. These opinions are entirely my own.
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I kept seeing this title pop up on my Kindle Recommendations but never decided to read it until I saw the reviews on Goodreads. I'm so glad NetGalley allowed me to read this title! I loved learning more about Mrs. Tew and her life. The Gilded age has always fascinated me and being able to learn more about it in conjunction with viewing that time period through a woman's perspective was even better!
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This is an exhaustive biography of an American woman who lived during the first half of the 20th century - encompassing the Great Depression, WW2, and the healing of Europe after the war.  I questioned why the author chose this woman to write about. Although Allene Tew was, indeed, a remarkable woman who led a remarkably interesting life - why her?  At the end of the book, Ms der Zijl explained that it had been one of her goals to write a story about an old woman who died by the sea!  What a story it is - names like Astor, Beatrix, Chrysler, Carnegie, princes, princesses, kings, and movie stars all had a place in Allene’s life.  I enjoyed the historical setting and attention to detail.  And...finally Allene did, in fact, die by the sea when she was an old woman.  This is a carefully crafted biography and I would recommend it to history lovers or to romantics who like to peek into the lives of the rich and famous.
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Vn der Zijl encountered Allene Tew while writing her dissertation about Prince Consort Bernhard of the Netherlands, and returned to her for a full biography.  Tew, a townie daughter in Chautauqua, NY, eloped with a wealthy Pittsburgh quack medicine heir (who had a gambling and drinking problem) and eventually won over her snotty in-laws by leveraging the new Daughters of the American Revolution.  When that marriage collapsed, she married (probably as a beard), a stockbroker who had been recently dumped by President Grant's grand-daughter.  A third husband was a doting engineer crucial to the rise of General Electric, who stood by her as a son died in WWI air corps service and her daughter perished from the 1918 flu, but who died in 1927, just before the stock market crash dented her enormous fortune.  A fourth husband, who offered European respectability and a ready-made set of step children, was German Prince Heinrich XXXIII of Reuss, who alienated Tew by becoming a Nazi, sending her back to the US with a sexy Russian bisexual ex-pat courtier in tow (who eventually became her next and final husband).  Tew's presence in American and European social circles from the 1890s to the 1950s offers an outsider's view of the rise and fall of the American Gilded Age, European Lost Generation and post-war attempts to patch the upper class of the Atlantic world back together.
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I usually avoid historical nonfiction but this book's premise sounded so intriguing I had to read it. It was a bit dry at times, but it would be impossible to make it less so since the subject of the book was not here to tell the personal details. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and strong female characters. 

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my review copy**
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It was such an interesting time period. So many American heiress marrying broke royals! Allene Tew was one I'd never heard of so I had to learn her story. This didn't disappoint at all! Goodness she had a very busy and interesting life! I'm happy for my nice quite one. Money isn't everything.
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Despite a few dry areas, I really did enjoy this book.  It reads like a fiction historical novel more so than a biography.  I found the descriptions of the time period and the descriptions of how lives were lived during that time period to be interesting and informative.  Allene Tew was definitely a fascinating woman and kept her head above water in creative ways.  She didn't always make wise decisions, but she looked out for herself and made something of herself.  Sometimes at the expense of others.  However, she worked hard to survive so many tragedies in her life and was indeed a remarkable life.  I thought the author handled her well and I gleaned an understanding of life in that era of growth and revolution while reading about Allene Tew's life.
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Historical, true story, written as a novel. LOVED IT!  I love autobiographies and biographies. I usually pick from a list of individuals I have heard of, but Allene was new to me. I was not sure how I would like  this. I am so glad I requested a copy. Thank you NetGalley!
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"An American Princess. The Many Lives of Allene Tew" by Annejet van der Zijl is a beautifully written, fascinating biography of Allene Tew, who had such an adventurous life that it is hard to believe it really happened. She married five very different men, including millionaires, a prince Heinrich Reuss the Thirty-Third and a Russian count Kotzebue. She travelled a lot in her lifetime, she changed countries and continents, bought and sold houses. She divorced husbands, faced horrible personal tragedies and ostracism. Her bravery and ambition took her from Jamestown, New York to mansions of American high society and royal palaces in Europe. Her life story is shown on the canvas of the ever-changing American society and the eventful history of America and Europe. 

Allene came from a family of pioneers and self-made successful entrepreneurs. She was a beautiful girl with blue eyes and blond hair that easily caught men attention. What is more, she was smart, ambitious and wanted to experience life at its best. She lived in the Gilded Age, time of unprecedented expansion and optimism in America, when anyone could become a millionaire, or at least it seemed so. In that time women had limited ways of changing their fates and having an eventful, fulfilling existence. The one way to achieved it was of course a marriage to a man of means. Young and beautiful Allene eloped with a young, handsome millionaire against his family wishes. In few years she conquered the high society of Pittsburgh and her husband’s family. She had enough spunk for ten women! Nothing was impossible for her. As she wrote in one of her letters: “If one has the will and persistence, one CAN do things.” 

But her character shined the brightest at the time of tragedy and crisis. She was brave enough to get divorced when husbands disappointed her and made her life miserable. She had enough courage to risk her heart again and again. She held her head high when tragedies struck and she lost loved ones. She was a positive force in lives of many people. She changed their life for the better and got things done. Honestly, I would love to have a friend or an aunt like her. Not only because she was resourceful and was a powerful force to recon with, but because of her positive outlook on life and people. Despite pain and disappointment she keep on enjoying her life and loving people. 

What I adore most about Allene is that she never lost her spunk. Even when the financial crisis changed millionaires into paupers she was able to hold her own and emerge after a few years victorious. She didn’t care about other people opinions and judgment in society, when her happiness and future were at stake. I also adore the fact that she managed to marry her true love and that she was happy with him till death separated them. When other people would only see disappointment, devastation and hopelessness she was able to see friends and chances for a positive change.

Overall, Allene Tew was a charming, strong-willed and courageous real-life Cinderella. If you want to read a story about a real-life Cinderella, you have to read this book. 

I received "An American Princess" from the publisher via NetGalley. I would like to thank the author and the publisher for providing me with the advance reader copy of the book.
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"An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew" by Annejet van der Zijl was definitely not what I was expecting. From the description I was expecting a fiction book about the life of a historical person. This book however is definitely a non-fiction history style read. The story seems to be about events which surrounded Allene Tew and not really about who she WAS. The book felt very chronological and interesting but did not engage me in a story. At times I just wanted to know about Allene and not all about the history of society at that time. However, to its advantage, the author does go into very in-depth descriptions and really gets to the heart and motivation behind peoples actions during this time in history. 

I also really LOVE the cover.

NetGalley has this book marked as "General Fiction (Adult)" genre but Goodreads has it classified under "History", "Non-Fiction" and "Biography". I think my judgement of this book was marred by my expectation of it being a fiction novel. 

I do want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for giving me a chance to read this book.
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I could not believe that this was a biography!  It was so well written and Allene led quite the life!  I love reading biographies about little known people, as I find that I go into them without any preconceptions.
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I have to admit that Alleen Tew truly had an incredible and very dramatic life. At certain points, I could not believe how unfortunate she was, despite being financially very fortunate. Her story could make a good costume drama with all the glamour of the turn of the century, and all of the pain of loss at failed marriages, the Spanish flu and World War I. To think that a simple girl from America could live such a colorful life, get married to all the rich men and then advance to become part of a royal family? It's pretty unbelievable.

However, despite the story itself seeming as if fictional, it was told in quite a boring way. Perhaps it's me or that I expected it to be a bit more fictionalized, or the fact that I hadn't actually heard anything about Alleen even existing before I started reading this book, but I struggled reading this. If you are interested in Alleen's history though and already know something about her, you will probably find this a lot more interesting than I did.

I thank the publisher for providing a free copy in exchange to an honest review. It does not affect my opinion.
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I had never heard of Allene Tew before reading this book. This was highly enjoyable. I read it quickly. I would recommend it.
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Good book - read it quickly, interesting character I had never heard about before!  Interesting to see the far reaching impact of Aliene - and the impact of her single life years and years later.
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Packed full of facts and imagery laden writing, An American Princess is a deeply enjoyable book that I powered through in a single morning. I had never heard of Allene Tew before this, but her story certainly was a fascinating one. I just wish the book focused a little more on her rather than largely just on the people and the world around her. What was she thinking? What was she feeling? I understand that it’s people and surroundings that shape a person, but I still wanted so much more than what was given.

Overall  this was a short and lovely historical read. (3.5 stars)
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Disclosure: I received an advance copy from the author via Netgalley. All opinions are my own

A fascinating read about Allene Tew. I had never heard of her but after reading this book I’m surprised that I hadn’t. She had a fascinating life that spanned truly interesting times and showed that with gumption and a little luck the world is your oyster. 

This is a translated book and I found the cadence a little odd. I read an uncorrected proof however so this may change in the final
product. Don’t let this put you off though as it’s a minor inconvenience to read about her surprising life.
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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  
From the publisher --- 
The true story of a girl from the wilderness settlements of a burgeoning new America who became one of the most privileged figures of the Gilded Age.
Born to a pioneering family in Upstate New York in the late 1800s, Allene Tew was beautiful, impetuous, and frustrated by the confines of her small hometown. At eighteen, she met Tod Hostetter at a local dance, having no idea that the mercurial charmer she would impulsively wed was heir to one of the wealthiest families in America. But when he died twelve years later, Allene packed her bags for New York City. Never once did she look back.
From the vantage point of the American upper class, Allene embodied the tumultuous Gilded Age. Over the course of four more marriages, she weathered personal tragedies during World War I and the catastrophic financial reversals of the crash of 1929. From the castles and châteaus of Europe, she witnessed the Russian Revolution and became a princess. And from the hopes of a young girl from Jamestown, New York, Allene Tew would become the epitome of both a pursuer and survivor of the American Dream.

I remembered the name Allene Tewe but knew nothing about her until now. She is a fascinating creature to read about – 5 husbands, royalty, war, love: this book has it all. Great read – I can see my bookclub devouring it!
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