“There is no greater pleasure than to be envied on a mass scale.” – Anna Godbersen
About a year ago, I noticed a good friend of mine carrying a book under her arm.
It was considerably thick, and had a young woman on the cover wearing what looked like a prom dress that was trying too hard.
The book she carried was ‘The Luxe’ by Anna Godbersen.
Being a fellow bibliophile (it takes one to know one), my friend immediately tried to lure me into the land of late 19th century Gossip Girl.
I scorned the girl, she’s more frivolous than I, and after struggling through the first page, I decided that it was just another one of her ‘cover-crush’ books. We’ve all done it before, that shiny bright cover charming its way off the store shelf and into our private library, turning out to be a waste of a twenty. I waved her read-this-now’s away and forgot The Luxe Series for a month.
Then, one day, I found myself at the library, scouring shelves for something appealing. I wandered into the YA section, the great unknown of teenage sex and high school philosophy, and once again, that prom dress caught my eye.
I had enough of the age of Twilight, thank you, but when it comes to books, I’m pretty easy to seduce. Except the prologue of The Luxe – perhaps it was my stressed brain, or maybe the cheeky writing itself – turned me off. I heard my friend’s voice in my head, like an adult trying to force foreign delicacies upon a child ‘try it, you’ll like it!’ I picked the book up carefully, as if it might burn me. I might’ve left it, too, but it was a bad day for a booking-spree, my basket was empty and the parking meter ticking. I dashed like mad to the checkout before I could change my mind.
I kept stealing glances at the girl on the cover until I got home, and as typical when I find a new book, I fling everything down, abandon the beckoning Civil War novel I’m working on, and transform myself into a couch potatoe canabolizing cholesterolic french fries.
The novel is set in the late 19th century Manhattan, were New Yorker socialites fight to the death to rise higher than the other. In a tight circle of millionaires, business-tycoons, and landed gentry, the character’s waltz around each other in twisted circles of love and lies, all in the Grand Ball of Life.
The series revolves around four main characters.
Elizabeth Holland is the privileged young girl that knows how to act like an adult and please her parents. She is kind and soft-spoken, obediant, beautiful, and with a waist the size of most people’s thigh – an ideal lady. She is aloof and keeps her opinions to herself, and no one would ever suspect that Mommy’s-sweet-girl-Elizabeth, daughter of one of the oldest and most respected families of old New Amsterdam, is sleeping her true love -the stable boy.
Diana Holland is Elizabeth’s adventure-seeking little sister. She is charming and naive, girlishly trying to be seductive and mysterious at the same time. She considers bankrupcy exciting, and makeout sessions in the coat-closet elegant. Diana is misguided and imprudent, and much too willing to give away her heart to men who are prone on breaking them.
Penelope Hayes is probably my favorite. She has a love for garish things, a lust for men she can’t have, and an addiction to parties. She knows what she wants and the people closest to her are stepping stones on the path to getting it. Scheming and unstoppable and a wearer of red, Penelope views a broken friendship as a casualty of war. Very Blaire Waldorf.
Lina Broud is the Hollands’ maid. She longs to enter the bright-lights-big-city life of her socialite counterparts, and reads the gossip columns of every newspaper discarded by the Holland mother. A perseverant go-getter, she even finds a sugar daddy. In all, she’s your Edwardian Jenny Humpfrey. Admittedly, the books are inviting. I begrudgingly ended up at the library again scanning the sequels, the tagline itself welcoming you into decietful Wonderland where everything is not as it seems – (after all, it is Manhattan) – where the rich are so high up, falling is going to hurt.
Anna Godbersen did a pretty good job of writing about catty women fighting for men and status, in spite of it’s similarites to Gossip Girl, the plot line is even spurred by gossip columns about the heroines – much like Gossip Girl’s blog – leading to more drama and mayhem. The series is told through the third person point of view of the four ladies mentioned above, (including a few appearances of the characters of the opposite sex), spotlighting the four main characters in their respective novels where the continuing plotline revolves around them.
It is meant as a historical fiction introduction for teens, it is YA after all. I wouldnt’ overly suggest buying them, though they would probably look very nice in that gap in your bookshelf. It was a bestseller, and I take my hat off to the authoress, that’s more bestsellers than most of us have put together. (Some of us don’t even have thev manuscript yet.) I would, however, suggest giving it a read, they’re worthy of your attention, despite of the tear-inducing-boring prologues. Just an escapism diversion from the daily life of electricity bills (thank-you Thomas Edison!) and noisy neighbors to remind us that our problems could never be as bad as those in books. So read the prologue and weep.
The Luxe Series by Anna Godbersen (in order):
Welcome to Manhattan 1899!