Bright Young Things

Published November 26, 2011 by myliteraryleanings

Review of Bright Young Things by Anna Godberson

Overview from www.bn.com: 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.

My Review:

From the beginning, this book captivated my attention.  Of course, having read the description of it on my nook, I was already fairly certain that I would like it.  I don’t know anything about the author but of course I love historical fiction and the 20’s is one of my favorite time periods.  One can’t help drawing comparisons to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby which is also one of my favorites.  And since this novel was written in the same time period, try as I might, I knew I would inevitably end up comparing it to that one.

I was not disappointed for the opening chapter hooked me right away with its description of a wedding to take place in some small town in Ohio.  There was also a vivid description of the girl standing outside while wedding guests are beginning to assemble outside a local Lutheran church.  Only later do we learn that she is the bride and for some reason I can’t explain, I was somewhat surprised by that.  I suspect this was due to the author’s great storytelling.

Here’s the quote:

“The girl was just eighteen, and had graduated from Union’s one-room high school two weeks earlier.  If that passerby had bothered to ponder her eyes- which were the sweet, translucent brown of Coca-Cola in a glass- he might have recognized in them a brewing agitation. p. 9”

I don’t see how anyone could go wrong with an opening like that.  I was immediately drawn into the story and the girl, who turned out to be one of the main characters.  Her name is Cordelia.

Cordelia runs away to New York City right after she is pronounced wife to a boy she likes but is not ready to marry.  Accompanying her is her friend Letty, soon to be renamed Letty Larkspur.  They have dreams of hitting it big in New York and although the girls have their ups and downs, their dreams seem to be coming true.

Shortly after arriving however, the two girls fight and part ways.  Letty tries to make it as a cigarette girl and a singer while Cordelia gets lucky and finds the father she’s been kept from for most of her life.  She makes a new friend in Astrid Donal though while Letty’s only friend is a dog named “Good Egg.”

As the three girls try to make a better life for themselves, trouble always seems to be just around the corner.  Soon they learn that out of all the problems that life can throw at you, the bigger problems are usually the ones you make for yourself.

This a novel I think that Fitzgerald himself would be proud of.  It definitely seems like it belongs in his era and sets the scene of the New York of the 1920’s.  It is well-written and transported me back to the time period like all good historical fiction novels should.  There are some scenes that might offend some and one offended me at first.  I list them below.  All in all though, I found it very entertaining and a good read.  I am anxious to read the next one in the series.

Contains: a sex scene, violence, language, bootlegging and drinking, but for me the biggest hurdles were I was upset with two scenes.  The first when Cordelia leaves her husband (I wondered why she didn’t run away before the wedding instead of after).  The other is when Cordelia’s brother is seen cheating on his girl friend in the afore-mentioned sex scene.  But in the end, neither was enough to stop me from finishing the story.

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