Luxe by Anna Godbersen

A couple of weeks ago, in an ill-fated attempt at backing up my computer, I accidentally erased my external hard drive. I was mourning the movies and pictures I had on there, but I was kind of shrugging it off, until I realized that I had just had to reformat my Kindle, and hadn’t loaded it up again with the books I stored on that hard drive. The books that were now gone. I think I broke down and wept at that moment.

Cover of "The Luxe"

Cover of The Luxe

The upside is that I don’t have many books on my Kindle now (relatively speaking – I’ve gone from 400+ to about a hundred, I think) so I’m reading the ones I do have. Which is why I picked up Luxe, by Anna Godbersen.

Normally, I would think it wasn’t really my kind of book. I was thinking of it as a kind of old-fashioned Gossip Girls. But B. and I were waiting for a train, and I was in the mood for some young adult, so there you are. And I’m glad I did – it was so much better than I thought it would be. In fact, it was good.

Luxe is set in New York in the late 19th century, very early 20th century, with its characters drawn from old, very rich New York families. To save both their families, Elizabeth Holland is set to wed Henry Schoonmaker. But they both love other people, and have to decide between their own happiness and meeting their families’ expectations.

Actually, Goodreads puts it this way:

Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.
Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions.
White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups.
This is Manhattan, 1899.

But I actually think that sells the book short. Yes, there are lots of parties, and dresses, and secrets. But it’s a lot more than yards of material and shiny diamond rings and secret, stolen kisses. Henry, Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s sister Diana, they all struggle to stay true to themselves in the face of societal and familial pressure. And one thing the book shows you so very well is that no one is what they seem and to assume appearances are the truth is to miss the point entirely. (Well, except for Penelope. She is one nasty character!)

Although it is kind of ironic that the Schoonmakers are such an old and venerable family, when their names translates as the Cleaners. I went back and forth, reading the name in an American, then a Dutch accent. It works better in American..

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