From the BLURB:
It’s the last summer of the Jazz Age and the bright young things of New York are revelling in beautiful days and glittering nights.
LETTY LARKSPUR has shaken off her smalltown origins and is set to chase her Broadway dream no matter what the cost.
CORDELLA GREY is reeling from the tragedy that's befallen her new-found family but she won't let it hold her back.
ASTRID DONAL is leading a dazzling life but her liaison with a gangster could threaten everything she holds dear.
The year is 1929 and small-time Ohio girls, Letty and Cordelia, have turned into society darlings and found their place in the Big Apple. But the girls want more, not content to spend their days lounging by the pool and their nights filled with hot music and lovely men.
Letty intends to pursue her Broadway dream, and she’ll do just about anything to see her name up in lights.
Cordelia has already lost so much that she won’t turn down the opportunity of a lifetime – running her very own speakeasy.
Meanwhile, socialite-born Astrid Donal has always been discontent with her life of luxury. When a different class of man catches her eye, she’ll find herself playing a dangerous game.
‘Beautiful Days’ is the second book in Anna Godbersen’s 1920’s historical YA series, ‘Bright Young Things’.
I loved the first book in Godbersen’s series, ‘Bright Young Things’. So I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of her second book in the mail. . . and I was over-the-moon to read that this second instalment is more glitzy gorgeousness! But where ‘Bright Young Things’ was all about introducing the girls to the wonders of New York, ‘Beautiful Days’ has an underlying thread of sin and decaying decadence that makes this second novel even better.
‘Beautiful Days’ is still set in 1929, but it’s a book at the brink of the Jazz Age. Prohibition is enforced in the States which is the national ban on the sale, manufacturing and distribution of alcohol. The government tried to curtail the dangerous medical, political, economic and social ramifications of drinking by banning it completely. Medical discoveries were warning people to the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, the US government wanted to curtail money flow from Germany (where most beer was imported from) and American families were seen to be hurting from the ramifications of alcohol abuse.
The novel picks up from where ‘BYT’ left off. Cordelia is nursing heartbreak, and intent on becoming career-focused. So when she is given the opportunity to run her very own speakeasy, she jumps at the daunting task. A speakeasy was an establishment that illegally distributed alcohol during the time of prohibition – a dangerous undertaking when Federal Prohibition agents were dedicated to the task of eliminating bootleggers. And double dangerous when the entire bootlegging economy was owned and operated by gangsters – such as Al Capone.
Meanwhile, Astrid is becoming equally embroiled in the sinister Manhattan underbelly of gangsters when she enters into a relationship with Cordelia’s half-brother, Charlie.
I loved how the three girl’s lives have becoming infinitely more complicated since they stepped out in ‘BYT’. Their destinies are becoming irrevocably entwined in the Jazz Age history, and I can’t wait to see where their dangerous decisions take them. . .
My one small complaint was that, when compared to Cordelia and Astrid’s interesting lives, Letty comes across with the less-thrilling storyline. She’s living the up’s and down’s of a struggling Broadway star – and while she has the most relatable storyline (complete with pitfalls in love), as a history-buff I found myself more invested in Cordelia and Astrid’s stories.
One thing I love about the ‘Bright Young Things’ series is Godbersen’s incredible hark-back storytelling. Manhattan in 1929 is living a glamorous, jazzed life of careless partying and dangerous double-dealing. But right around the corner is the stock market crash and Great Depression that will see American’s live the next decade in an abysmal antithesis to the current Jazz Age decadence.
Godbersen does a fabulous job at foreboding the Depression. It’s in the little things like setting and metaphor that Godbersen lets the creep of disaster set into the partying lifestyles of her protagonist’s . . . the perfect example is when Cordelia visits the future setting of her speakeasy; a run-down old bank. How brilliant and foretelling that the scene of her raucous bootlegging business will be the husk of an abandoned bank – a most sinister and telling glimpse of the future to come at the end of the Jazz Age.
Their destination was in the middle of a block in the West Fifties, the floors of which were mosaic swirls of turquoise and gold, far below an arching ceiling that had once been covered with murals of cherubs and clouds. That the paint on the ceiling had begun to chip and fall away and expose the stone and plaster beneath only added to the mystery and beauty of the vast room. Either wall was flanked with windows covered by iron grates that opened onto other darkened rooms, and at the end were elaborate double copper doors.
“What was this?” Cordelia gasped.
“A bank, of course.” Charlie’s footsteps echoed as he moved across the floor.
Choice bit of Calico
Anna Godbersen’s ‘Bright Young Things’ young adult historical series is Gatsby meets Gossip Girl and utterly brilliant. Having devoured the new HBO ‘Boardwalk Empire’ TV show, this series holds even more fascination for me. It’s especially interesting as Godbersen gears her series up for the end of the Jazz Age – there’s a feeling throughout ‘Beautiful Days’ of foreboding and imminent disaster. I wonder what will happen when the champagne stops flowing, the gangsters lose their bluster and these three girls find themselves in the aftermath of glutony? I can’t wait!