Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Luxe (Luxe #1) by Anna Godbersen

The Luxe (Luxe, #1)SUMMARY (from Goodreads): In the self-contained world of young Gilded Age Manhattan socialites, Elizabeth and Diana Holland reign supreme. Or so it seems. Scratch the surface, though, and you can detect festering jealousies that threaten to topple them. Elizabeth suffers a more literal fall when her carriage overturns and she is carried away by the swift East River current. That's only the beginning of the action and suspense in The Luxe, the launch volume in a teen series by Anna Godbersen.


hrough more than three quarters of the book I was wavering between loving it and hating it. The last sixty pages or so made me tilt to the first option.
The Luxe is basically a soap opera in the written form. I love soap operas. And I hate them. That is, I love splendour and romance, but I hate scheming and misunderstandings.

Now, I must explain myself. I am the kind of a reader who suffers when being in the know of what the characters have no idea about, especially when it hurts them. It makes me nervous and I wish I could skip all of it and just find out what happens. Although, I am perfectly fine with scheming when I can solve it alongside the characters. Knowing the core of the problem in advance, however, does not work from me. Unfortunately, The Luxe follows the let-the-reader-be-in-the-know concept, which I don't like. 

Godbersen knows how to create ambience. Her writing conjures luxurious homes, glamorous attires and dazzling people right before your eyes. Then it takes you from all the wealth to the modest rooms of the less fortunate, their rough dresses, and daily toiling. As Godbersen lets you take a look at the lives of the New York society of the late 19th century, she shows you a two-sided canvas: one side out in the open for everybody to see, and the other hidden, dark, full of secrets.

What bothered me the most in The Luxe was the insincerity in the relationships between people. Everyone is so concerned with decorum that nobody says what they truly mean. Even family members cannot openly speak to each other about what troubles them, because it is not appropriate, thus the relations between them are often unaffectionate due to numerous misunderstandings. 

The one character I truly liked and rooted for in this book was Diana Holland. She is a rebellious girl who speaks her thoughts. She is pristine, full of life, adventurous and unlike any other society girl. She reads inappropriate books in her craving for knowledge and breaks rules. Wanting to find out what happens to Diana was what kept me reading all those times I was about to give up on the book.

Her sister Elizabeth is a good character, too, but she feels bound by duty to her family, which almost makes her ruin her chances for happiness. I was really sad for her alienation from her sister, but I was really happy that the circumstances forced her to step out of conformity and try to make her own luck.

Overall, the social atmosphere of the era with its hypocritical conventions does not appeal to me, which made me struggle thorough the book. However, the story of the Holland sisters is intriguing. Therefore, I will continue reading the series, because I am very curious about how their lives continue.

RECOMMENDATION: This is the book for someone who likes a well-described settings and vivid atmosphere of the Gilded Age. 


  1. The Luxe is very much a let-the-reader-be-in-the-know book, but I liked how the reader got to be in the know from different perspectives. Although, I can understand how this could be seen as a negative, it may not leave much wiggle room for surprise.

  2. I really hate when the plot hinges on the fact that people just don't communicate. But, I love these books. I'm not sure if that failure to communicate is a part of the culture of the time, or just a good way to make a story. But I loved the books because of the opulence, and I thought the settings and costumes were well described. They are a bit like a soap opera--you are right.


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