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Well Behaved Women

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A wonderful book with such memorable characters. I was hooked from the first page. I'll definitely recommend.

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Well-Behaved Women is a thought-provoking and insightful read that challenges readers to question the status quo and strive for a more equitable society.

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We all know the saying. And, true to the title, the women in this book (well, some of them) did have considerable historical significance. And then, they were summarily forgotten save for experts and aficionados.
And of course, books like these that aim to shed much needed light of the interesting/exceptional aspects of the past.
I’m all for historical fiction. I’m not superthrilled about this kind of it—the one that firmly lands under women’s fic, estrogen heavy, emotionally overwrought, and melodramatic—but the subject intrigued me enough to check this novel out.
Sure enough, the book works primarily on the strength of its character. Nazimova. An émigré who took America by storm a century ago and was at the peak of her career the highest paid actress in Tinseltown. The peak didn’t stay, they seldom do, but it gave Nazimova’s story an perfect three-act ar—turbulent in real life, surely, but great for literary fodder.
Curiously enough, the author chose to split the narrative duty between Nazimova and Maybelle, a somebody and a nobody, presumably to work that dynamic. The thing is Maybelle isn’t nearly as interesting of the character, she’s more of a plot device. Young, inexperienced, and fresh out of Kentucky farm, she provides the wide-eyed gee-haw perspective for the world of early day cinema she discovers in LA.
She’s also a lesbian, which plays nicely against Nazimova’s famous bisexuality and generally rather scandalous love life.
So you have the fascinating historical plotline of Nazimova’s life up against half-assed romantic and aspirational yearnings of Maybelle. Not especially comparable, but workable.
Certainly more so that the writing itself, which is just…so freaking cheesy. The love scenes alone…it’s like stir some macaroni in there for a meal already.
Definitely the kind of book where you gotta pick and choose. For me, my interest in all things cinema and queer/historical past mostly balanced out the twee estrogen-heavy aspects of the novel. And yes, had the subject been less interesting, that twee estrogen-heavy thing would have tanked the book, but alas, it works. It’s readable. It entertains. Thanks Netgalley.

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This historical novel is about a little-known actress who found fame in the height of the black and white films and at the early birth of Hollwood glamour. It was an interesting account and I liked learning about a character whom I had not heard of before.

The novel is structured to move between present day (1917) and from 1879. In present day we follow Maybelle, who has moved to California to be with her heavily religious and suppressive aunt and uncle. She does not feel immersed in this new family life and knows her inner thoughts conflict with the devout, God-fearing beliefs that are promoted by her uncle. In contrast, alternate chapters introduce us to Alla who, from her life in Crimea, we explore how this actress found fame in America. It was her story that I found myself most interested in.

Cleverly, the two timelines eventually overlap: readers come to a point where we witness Alla’s initial meeting with characters who we are seeing in the later time period. This was a great way to structure the narrative because it meant you already knew how this relationship would develop; you are just seeing the final piece of the puzzle with an awareness of what is in store in the future.

Alla’s story was fascinating. I know a little about Russian history and I thought the social ideologies were vividly reflected in her upbringing. With no mother-figure in her life and a hateful father, I felt her story was one that should be celebrated. Alla manages to escape the dominating and violent patriarchy and, against all odds, makes a name for herself. Yet, as Lamond’s narrative demonstrates, this is never an easy journey.

Whilst I was not as invested in Maybelle’s story, I was interested in her growing exposure to the life of Hollywood. For sure, there are plenty of female characters in this novel that are far from being well behaved and I was keen to understand how appearances deceived those around them, hiding the true reality. Furthermore, Lamond continues to refer to other key characters of this period and whilst there were few names that I recognised, I did feel a part of Maybelle’s journey that takes her so far from her religious upbringing.

As the novel progressed, I enjoyed watching the parallels emerge between the two women. Whilst they may appear completely contrasting, the hardships they suffer prove to be quite similar. I loved how Lamond creates this reflection between the two women, although Maybelle’s life certainly lacks the glitz and glamour of Alla’s. I could not help but sympathise with Alla, particularly towards the end of the story. This encouraged me to celebrate the more optimistic ending for Maybelle.

Dealing with same-sex relationships in a strict era, this book raised awareness of the difficulties some women faced, repressed for not being able to be their true selves. I thought this was an interesting depiction of two troubled characters in what appears to be a very decadent era.

With thanks to One More Chapter, Harper Collins and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Lamond's book "Well Behaved Women" was an enjoyable read, and engaged me. However, I do feel like the timeline jumped a bit, which would take me out of the story. That might just be me. I enjoyed the perspective listed in this book and would recommend to friends.

Thanks to NetGalley and One More Chapter for the chance to review this book.

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A well written and fascinating novel about one of the diva of the 20s, Alla Nazimova. She was a woman who was not shy about her sexuality, a great actress and this book made me travel in time and brought me to mythical places.
I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the plot.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine

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An interesting read about the development of early Hollywood. Most people are not aware of the creative role women had as actresses, producers, writers, etc.
Alla’s childhood in Russia was also very interesting to read about.
Anyone wanting to read about the film industry prior to WWI should check out this book.

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This was a bit of a mixed bag for me.
The story itself is interesting, and explores a little of the darkness of being part of the LGBTQIA community during that time.
However, I found myself losing interest at times, what with the timeline jumping around, and so many additional characters to try and keep track of. By the time I was over half way I found myself skim reading at times just so I could find out how it ended.
Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the arc ebook.

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What a fascinating story made all the more so when you find it’s based on the true story of silent movie star Alla Nazimova. The story alternates between Maybelle’s and Alla’s story from 1879 until shortly after WWII. Alla is Russian, a woman who had an unpleasant childhood but always wanted to act. When she went to USA on a theatre tour she was discovered and soon became a big star. Maybelle left home under a cloud to live with her pastor uncle and his wife. When she meets glamorous Josephine (Joe) Colbert her life changes dramatically. The two threads are wonderfully interwoven to provide an exciting sapphic novel of romance, drama, love and hedonism.

Briefly, when Joe invites Maybelle to a party she doesn’t expect it to be at the home of Alla Nazimova on Sunset Boulevard. The party is shocking but at the same time exciting and soon her regular attendance at Alla’s home brings out Maybelle’s repressed sexuality and she ends up living with Joe.

This is an intense read. Alla was openly bisexual in her circles but should this become common knowledge her career would be at an end. The decadent lifestyle is wonderfully described, very F Scott Fitzgerald vibes, flamboyant and exciting. Alla’s life is actually quite heartbreaking and I wonder if she was ever truly happy. I loved this book, I like books that are based on real people, this one was sad and joyful, cruel and kind and a completely engrossing read.

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When Maybelle takes a break from handing out the pamphlets for her uncles church she’s mesmerized by beautiful well dressed woman named Josephine. When Josephine also showed an interest in her she is nervous but also tickled when the pretty lady asked her to come to a party later that night. May Bell was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in LA do to us can you do that happened in her hometown in Kentucky but this doesn’t stop her from sneaking out of the house to go meet Josephine at this party. The Home belongs to a movie stars named Ellie. Once again Maybelle is mesmerized by all the women their son or even dressed like men in a few or smoking but that isn’t going to stop innocent country Maybell and this will not be her last time going to a party at Ellie‘s house. Before she knows it she is having feelings for Josephine who everyone called Joe and despite her innocent nature Joe was also very attracted to her. Now this whole time Ellie as an adult is a side character but throughout the book we learned about her abusive violent upbringing with her father and her missed treatment by her siblings. It all plays a role in what Ellie is forced to do to take care of her self and like most women who find her self in that situation it was done out of desperation and necessity. I found this book interesting but they were a few things I just didn’t understand. The one if she lived in Atwater California how did she sneak out the window and go to a party in the hills of LA that isn’t a quick Jaunt but actually quite a treck and also it’s said the book that she was scared to hold Joe’s hand because they could be arrested but back in the Victorian era in the early 1900s women holding hands was not a big deal girls did that all the time because women dating was so far from what most people thought no one would’ve thought twice about that. We’re not talking about the jaded 60s and 70s we’re talking about World War I in 1919 and I know this is cosmetic and not apropos to the story I just don’t like when historical fiction writers don’t get the history right. Also I thought that Maybelle quickly changed from the Bible school advocate to practicing lesbian quite quickly and although there was one mention of her feeling guilty that was it the rest it was all gravy and she was down to go with the flow. I also wish the Brooke would focus more on Eli as I thought that’s what it would’ve been about and we would’ve learn more about her twisted marriage and love affairs and not just as a side character but that is just my negatives with the book. As I said I did find it interesting and I do recommend it but only as a solid three star read.

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Adelaida Leventon is born in 1879, and she’s the third child of Yakov and Sarah, and her father is a respected pharmacist in Yalta. Her parents marriage isn’t a happy one, her father is a difficult and violent man and her mother leaves. No one explains anything to Adelaida, she misses her mother and she's gone. Yakov sends eight year old Adelaida away and when she returns home, her father physically abuses her and she doesn’t know about her parents divorce.

Adelaida decides she wants to be an actress, she leaves the Crimea and moves to Moscow, her family refuses to give her money and Alla has to sell her body to pay her rent. Alla meets Parel Orlenev, they tour Russia, Europe and England with his theatre company and eventually they move to America. When Alla arrives in America, she can’t speak a word of English and she has to learn quickly. Alla becomes one of Hollywood’s highest paid silent movie actresses of the 1920’s and she lives in a mansion on Sunset Boulevard and throws wild parties.

Maybelle Crabtree was born on a farm in Kentucky, when her father passes away, she’s sent to live with her aunt and uncle in California. One day while handing out fliers promoting her uncles evangelist church services, she meets Josephine Colbert, and she asks her if she would like to attend a party? Maybelle arrives at Sunset Boulevard, she has no idea the parties being held at Alla Nozimova’s house, and she’s shocked in a good way. The roaring twenties, a break from tradition and a new modern era, and Maybelle's aunt thinks she attending a sewing circle with a friend. Maybelle eventually starts working at Metro Pictures, in the costume department and she moves in with Joe.

The story has a dual timeline and is told mainly from the points of view of the two main characters, Alla and Maybelle. Both women have secrets, about their pasts and previous relationships, if the truth is uncovered it would have serious consequences and especially for Alla’s acting career and she’s no longer a young starlet.

I received a copy of Well Behaved Women by Caroline Lamond from NetGalley and HarperCollins UK in exchange for an honest review. A fascinating and compelling narrative about one of Hollywood’s first leading ladies, it's full of real facts about Alla Nozimova, a Russian/American actress and who went on to be director, producer and screenwriter. Alla rubbed shoulders with some very famous people including Rudolph Valentino and Charles Bryant, many of them cheated on their spouses or remarried without their divorce being finalized and it was swept under the carpet. Alla was bisexual, she and circle of friends had to be very careful and at a time when you could be jailed for being in a same sex intimate relationship. A story about the ebbs and flows of Adelaida Leventon's extraordinary life, a person sexuality should be irrelevant and Ms. Lamond emphasizes this. Five stars from me and please read this wonderful and enlightening novel.

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Well Behaved Women by Caroline Lamond is inspired by the real life actress Alla Nazimova, born in Russia in 1879, who became famous in America for her roles on both stage and silver screen. Her bisexuality was something of an open secret in Hollywood. In this book Caroline Lamond interweaves her life story with that of a fictional character , Maybelle Crabtree who was forced to leave her rural Kentucky home in disgrace and finds herself living with her Uncle, a preacher, in Hollywood. A chance encounter with a beautiful and mysterious stranger brings Maybelle into Alla's world , and soon she is embracing everything the roaring twenties has to offer, including exploring her own sexuality. Peppered with references to many Hollywood favourites including Rudolph Valentino and with lush descriptions of the fabulous fashions of the twenties, this book should have really engaged me, but I found that my attention kept slipping. I found the chapters dedicated to Alla's life more interesting , Maybelle felt far less interesting as a character, and I found that I wanted to rush through her chapters to get back to Alla's story.
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinons are my own.

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When Maybelle Crabtree, a God-fearing farm girl from Kentucky, has a chance encounter with a charismatic stranger, her life changes forever. With an invitation to join the infamous Alla Nazimova and her Sewing Circle, Maybelle’s eyes are opened to a life of decadence and glamour.

I love this era and it was so well depicted. Every character has her own color and description developed to the fullest. I love how sexuality was explored during this era in history. I couldn't stop reading. What a lovely book.

Thank you to @Netgalley and @harpercollinsuk for allowing me to preview this book.

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While living with her pastor uncle, and recruiting for the church run out of his farm, Maybelle meets a beautiful, worldly woman... and when that woman, Josephine, takes an interest in her and invites her to a party at movie star Alla's house, Maybelle gets swept up in a life of glamour that couldn't be more different than the godly life she's known.

This book alternates between Maybelle's storyline, starting in 1919 (in first person) and Alla's, starting a few decades before (in third person). Their stories are very different, but there are threads of similarities, even before the two characters ever meet. The alternating storylines were incredibly impactful, and as Alla's storyline approached where Maybelle's begin, I found myself desperate to know exactly how Alla ended up where she did.

Well Behaved Women is intense-- heartbreaking and horrifying and beautiful. It's a story about identity--about these characters' sexualities, family dynamics, and how they fit into the world. Alla and Maybelle couldn't be more different, but I saw both of them in each other--and myself in both of them.

Trigger warnings for sexual assault and domestic abuse.

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Based on the life of famous silent movie star Alla Nazimova, this story jumps between two narrators - Maybelle, a transplant from Kentucky, who has been sent to live with her preacher uncle, and Alla, a famous immigrant movie star. Maybelle suddenly finds herself part of this glamourous Hollywood scene and her life changes. But both she and Alla have secrets that might ruin their happiness.

I didn't really connect with the characters here. I think it should've started with Alla instead of Maybelle since the book is based on her life.

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This book was difficult for me to read. I felt like the story was a little disjointed and the characters were frustrating to me.

This book wasn’t for me.

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This book had great potential with the storyline, however I found it frustrating to read.

Maybelle’s character frustrated me at times and her story moved too quickly and could have benefited from more storytelling.

However the rest of the side characters had so much unnecessary information regarding them and relationships etc it left me lost and bamboozled at times.

The general pacing of the book was frustrating to read which resulted in me wanting to put it back down all the time…, which is not what you want in a good book.

Between chapters 21 and 23 there’s a 2 year time gap, yet they are still talking about the same issues and originally they were on a time crunch?

Lastly, I don’t ever want to read “Juice” in the context they’ve used it in again.

To summarize, the storyline had potential but the characters were difficult to connect with and the flow of the story was frustrating and difficult to enjoy.

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Well Behaved Women is very well written. Both Alla's and Maybelle''s stories are inspiring, uplifting, and saddening. The narrative includes graphic descriptions of lesbian sexual relationships, which should be mentioned, and descriptions of violence against women and children, rape, and religious bigotry; all topics that need a trigger warning.
Caroline Lamond is an excellent writer and storyteller. I look forward to more of her writing.

With thanks to Harper Collins UK -- One more Chapter and Netgalley for the ARC.

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This is a brilliant character driven novel. I love historical fiction and this book did a really good job of portraying the experiences of these ladies in the early 1900s.
We follow Maybelle as she moves to LA from a small rural town. She makes new friends and breaks free from her church upbringing, discovering herself and her sexuality whilst also becoming part of the expansion of Hollywood and the film industry of this time. Here she meets famous actress Alla who is also one of our main characters. In alternate chapters we follow Alma’s early life, her rise to fame and the sacrifices and decisions she made to get to where she is today.
There are some very difficult subjects in this book so do check trigger warnings. There are plenty of twists and heartbreaking moments in this story. Overall an really interesting read!

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I was drawn to this story as an interesting alternative view of the early years of the film industry. Sadly I didn’t feel any connection with the characters and as a result didn’t much care what happened to them. The time slip elements seemed rather disjointed.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for the invitation I received from Harpers UK to review this book.

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