The Luxe

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The Luxe  By Anna Godbersen, book reviewThe Luxe by Anna Godbersen is a novel set in New York in 1899, at the height of the super-rich society families for whom appearance was everything. It is about a group of young people, all of whom want to break the constraints of their lives in different ways and for different reasons.

The very first page of the novel is the funeral announcement for Elizabeth Holland. After a glimpse of the funeral, we are taken back in time to a few weeks before to find out what happens. This is a bit of a strange start, opening with the funeral of one of the main characters, but it does have a page-turning effect, as you always want to keep going to find out what happened to Elizabeth during what should have been a special time of her life.

The setting of the novel, New York 100 years ago, is very interesting, but I don’t think it is used as well as it could be. Instead of treating the reader to lots of descriptions of the city as it was then, and of the contrasting opulence and poverty found in the city, we learn very little about it and it is rather matter of fact. The city is just a place, rather than the character that it could be in a novel such as this.

There is a variety of characters in The Luxe, most of whom will provoke emotions. Elizabeth is a strange one, as when she takes the lead (each chapter is in third person, from the point of view of one of the main characters) it is easy to sympathise with her and understand her. However, everyone else in the novel sees her as dull and very proper, never breaking the rules. It’s difficult to know what to think of her, because although we know the truth about her, it is easy to be influenced by the opinions of the other characters.

The “bad guy” is wonderfully bad. Penelope Hayes, Elizabeth’s so-called best friend, is really horrible and manipulative piece of work, incredibly glamorous and beautiful, but she knows it. Throughout the novel I wanted her to get her comeuppance, to be exposed as the nasty, self-centred girl she is. Henry Schoonmaker, one of the main male characters, should probably be a bad guy, but he’s really just rather pathetic and pitiful. He doesn’t treat people well, but it’s hard to hate him because he’s pathetic.

Elzabeth’s servant, Lina, should be a good character – at least she is at first, but I soon found myself disliking her almost as strongly as Penelope. She turns out to be selfish and greedy, and also slightly delusional.

In terms of the story, The Luxe is enjoyable, but I spotted the twist quite a long time before it happened, which is always disappointing. I also found that I spent a lot of time puzzling over the timeline of the novel, which at first seems somewhat implausible. The main section of the novel starts around three weeks before Elizabeth’s funeral, which was also to have been her wedding day, but at the start of those three weeks she is not even engaged – this comes several days later. This was later addressed as part of the story, it didn’t turn out that the New York elite in 1899 only had two-week engagements, but it did distract me for some time before being cleared up.

The Luxe is mainly aimed at teenage readers, but I enjoyed it as an adult, and I would recommend it to others who enjoy a light read. It is the first in a series, and from the preview of the second novel (Rumours) given at the end of The Luxe, it will have a similar premise and also sounds worth a read.

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Luxe, The
by Anna Godbersen

One Comment on "The Luxe"

  1. Mary Bor
    Mary Bor
    04/12/2010 at 18:46 Permalink

    I’m not sure about this one – but that fab dress on the cover cetainly caught my attention!

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Written by eilidhcatriona

A Scottish lass in her late twenties living in London. A prolific reader always interested in something new.

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