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Monday, September 13, 2010

'Bright Young Things' by Anna Godbersen

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star. . . .

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined - and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall - together and apart. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe comes an epic new series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age.

On the up and up...

‘Bright Young Things’ is the first book in Anna Godbersen’s new series, set in 1929 Manhattan. The series will revolve around three young women...

Cordelia Grey leaves behind the small town of Union, Ohio and her new husband for the bright lights of New York City and an inkling that her estranged father can be found in the big apple.

Letitia Haubstadt is Cordelia’s best friend, and another Union-native leaving her indifferent family and small-minded town for the bright lights of NYC where she intends to transform herself into Letty Larkspur.

On the other end of the social strata resides Astrid Donal, a privileged young miss who is home from boarding school, desperate to have a raucous-good time and oddly charmed by her mother’s stably-boy horse-riding instructor.

These three women come from very different backgrounds, have different ambitions and are set to play out very different fates... But, to borrow from F. Scott Fitzgerald, all three women envision New York City as their very own ‘green light’. These women who ‘beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past’...

The Real McCoy

Godbersen writes period the same way Stephenie Meyer writes vampires. It’s her niche, her hook and what sets her apart from other YA writers. Godbersen’s novels are primarily written around a period of time. The ‘Luxe’ series was set in the 1800’s, and her new ‘Bright Young Things’ is all about the 20’s Jazz Age.

Godbersen’s storylines have been touted as very ‘Gossip Girl’, with an age difference. And that’s somewhat true, if simplified. Her books are set in Manhattan and are about young, beautiful socialites living and loving it up in the Big Apple. But I think Godbersen’s period settings often convey to readers how similar we are to these young people of the past... and that some things don’t change, no matter the era. Girls still lust after boys. Boys still chase girls. We still secretly hope to make the big time and get discovered. Family dynamics and dynamites are universal and always make for addictive reading. Godbersen may be setting herself apart by basing her YA books in a period setting, but the timeframe is often superficial and second-fiddle to the characters universal struggles and experiences.

You got moxy, kid

That being said... era does dictate Godbersen’s writing. And it’s not just a matter of setting and dialogue, her writing is dripping in history, and timeliness pervades every sentence. Like her description of Cordelia’s eyes;
which were the sweet, translucent brown of Coca-Cola in a glass ...
Even that one description of eye-colour is influenced by the upcoming age of mass-market capitalism and consumerism. Brilliant.

The book’s time-warp is unique and delicious. NYC in 1929 is a buzzing metropolis of fashionable flappers, bootlegging businessmen and a clash of classes. Godbersen captures the city’s vibrancy beautifully; every moment holds such significance, even Letty and Cordelia stepping off the train platform to see an airplane sky-writing;
New York was more extraordinary than a girl from Ohio could possibly have imagined, that it was a place of wonders where the citizens used the sky as their tablet and airplanes for pens.
Even descriptions of character’s clothing become stylish still-frames under Godbersen’s talented pen;
Her dark, mannishly cut hair was slicked behind both ears, and her eyes were covered with small, perfectly round black sunglasses.
But it’s also a mark of Godbersen’s talent that characters and story don’t get lost amidst the skyscrapers and grandiose old city setting.

The Cat’s Meow

The pace of ‘Bright Young Things’ is as fast as the Charleston. Very early on in the novel Cordelia goes in search of her famous, criminal father. Letty grows stars in her eyes and seeks a life on the stage. And Astrid’s home life spins wildly out of control.
These are big storylines, but Godbersen never loses her characters to big concepts.

Godbersen keeps the story firmly about the women rather than the era, especially because in the prologue she chillingly foreshadows that of the three women;
one would be famous, one would be married, and one would be dead.
Each girl is very distinctive. From Astrid’s Daisy Buchanan-esque lifestyle (‘gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor’, thankyou Fitzgerald), to Cordelia’s creeping guilt over leaving her husband on their wedding night. These are complicated young ladies living in extraordinary times, and it is a voyeuristic joy to glimpse their helter-skelter lives.

The women are made all the more fascinating for the men in their complicated lives. Cordelia develops a crush on Thomas Schultz, son of her father’s bootlegging rival. Letty meets a crushing author called Grady Lodge who is enamoured of her talent. And Astrid is dating the filthy rich Charlie Grey, but is oddly attracted to her country club’s stable boy, Luke.
The romance is decadent and addictive, made more so by the old-world charm these men exhibit:
It was the colour of his eyes, she supposed – not quite one shade or another, and utterly unlike anyone else’s. She loved the idea of driving in a car with a boy like that. “You stick with me. I’m gonna show you what’s really hiding behind all them straight-faced facades.”

Anna Godbersen has bought the 1920’s to modern teenagers in ‘Bright Young Things’. The book is flapper-cool, a gin-soaked raucous gala-read and head-nod to the king of Jazz, F. Scott Fitzgerlad himself.
‘Bright Young Things’ is the cat’s meow, so get ready to purr.


'Bright Young Things' is released October 12th 2010....

Anna Godbersen's Luxe series - out now!


  1. Wonderfully written review. You have a wa with words. I have the chapterlet of this, I need to read it.

  2. You really deserve so many more comments per review! This is a brilliantly worded review, and it shows that you put in sooo much effort into it. I'm currently reading this one right now, so excuse me when I say that I didn't read all of it. I will come back to it once I have read the book entirely, though. :)


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