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Review: The Luxe, Anna Godbersen

In October 1899, Elizabeth Holland, one of society’s most fashionable young women, is laid to rest with great ceremony, after tragically falling into a river.  What was to have been her wedding day was in fact the date of her funeral.  The story, however, is vastly more complicated than that, when the novel speedily backtracks so as to explain just how Elizabeth died.  A beautiful, proper society girl, Elizabeth is opposed by her unconventional sister Diana, who refuses to follow the proper rules of behavior.  Add in to the mix Penelope Hayes, Elizabeth’s best friend, who is determined to marry New York’s most eligible bachelor Philip Schoonmaker, as well as Elizabeth’s dissatisfied maid Lina Broud and all the pieces are in place for a scandalous tale of love, loss, and revenge.

Reading The Luxe felt a little bit like eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s by myself.  This is actually an event that has never happened, but I imagine it would be the same:  delicious and addictive, but I feel a pervading sense of guilt about it.  The book was a very fun, very quick read, and I loved it for the most part.  Everything kicks off with a bit of a mystery as we wonder what’s happened to Elizabeth and why on earth her sister is smiling at her funeral.  While the resolution of this particular plot becomes very obvious very early on, it was a great way to snap the reader up and by the time we figure out what’s going on, the rest of the story has us engaged enough for the rest of the book to speed by.

Perhaps the unhealthy part about this book is that it is so scandalous.  It felt somewhat different from the YA I normally appreciate because the girls are all so catty, promiscuous, and vengeful.  Three of them hop into bed with men without much thought for the consequences; one of them actively uses her sexuality to get her way while tearing down her friend over a man who is, quite honestly, not worth either of their time.  I suppose these are reasons that I’ve never been into the Gossip Girl series or really any drama about teenage girls since I stopped being one, because the outright backstabbing as shown here is actually common enough in the real world and I don’t need more of it.

Having said all that, there is no way to avoid that despite its questionable morals, I totally loved my time with this book.   I found myself speeding through it and thoroughly enjoying myself.  I especially came to love Elizabeth and Diana and I really want to know what happens next in their lives.  I also loved the setting of New York City in the late nineteenth century.  One of my two favorite books, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, is also set around this time in New York, and I’ve developed an immeasurable fondness for it as a result.  I could just picture these girls heading to the Lord & Taylor on 5th Avenue for fittings!

So, in conclusion, I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book is hugely enjoyable but full of questionable moral standards and teenagers who are not to be emulated.  I definitely recommend it to adults, because it’s a whole lot of fun, but I don’t think I’d buy it for a sixteen year old.

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13 comments to Review: The Luxe, Anna Godbersen

  • I bought this when it first came out purely based only on the cover! I still haven’t read it!

  • Pam

    I JUST got this from the library. It’s funny, I just wrote a mini-vent on how books on certain topics shouldn’t be reclassified at the library but really, when it comes to this sort of thing, the mommy in me wants to frown. Oh well, for the moment, I am reading it, not my 18 month old son. :O)

  • I have heard a lot of good about this book but I think you’re the first one who voiced my thoughts about how this book should probably not be classified as a YA fiction. It may be fun for adults though.

  • I’m glad you liked this book! I’ve read the first two books in the series, The Luxe and Rumors, but never got around to reading the third book. It is definitely a fun read, but also one I would recommend to 17 or 18 year olds and up.

  • I have been wanting to read these books. It’s good to know that they are more suitable for adults!

  • I definitely thought of these guilty pleasure (pint of ice cream) reads. I thought this one was probably the most fun of the lot, but that won’t stop me from reading on in the great soap operatic saga. Sometimes you just need some melodrama!

    I really enjoyed your review, so I’ve linked to you in my back review from this February (here)

  • I know some people love these books and others dislike them because of they don’t think they’re historically accurate. They do sound like a lot of fun, though.

  • Great review! This book sounds like a lot of fun, but I think I’ll take your advice, and not pass it on to my daughter.

  • Catty girls in books definitely bothers me. I can handle one or two to play off the protagonist, but a whole slew of them? No thanks. I deal with that enough IRL. This book kind of sounds like a soap opera, no?

    Oh, and The Age of Innocence is one of my favoritest novels, too. I read it literally in one sitting–sat down to read the first 30 pages or so, and didn’t get up again until it was finished. Loved it!

  • Great review. I have had so much fun with these books! But I guess I was a bad aunt because I sent them on to my 14-year-old niece, who also liked them. I guess I trust that she is of good character and will figure out that the Luxe girls aren’t role models!

  • I thought the pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream metaphor was perfect – that’s completely how I felt after reading this as well!

  • Meg

    I read this one about a year ago and remember that it didn’t thrill me. In fact, I was so not drawn in that I barely recall the plot! Still, I really enjoyed your review — and it’s making me wonder if I was drugged up or something at the time! It had all the makings of a novel I would love — but still, there was a disconnect. Maybe I’ll revisit it someday! :)

  • Kay

    I had missed that review of yours at the time, but I’m glad I read it! Most people who read this book compared it to guilty pleasure, I really can’t wait to see by myself why that’s so. I have the first waiting for me, maybe I should jump in!
    .-= Kay´s last blog ..Review : Chester and Chester’s Back! =-.