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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

I've been meaning to add this for awhile, as I read and reviewed it on Goodreads at the end of the summer. But better books were calling my name, and this got pushed back. But even though I didn't really like this book, I thought I would go ahead and add the review now, that way those of you who are into this sort of book can have a shot at it for the 100th Follower contest. (I do like the fact that I used the word "debaucherous," however...)

The Luxe is about turn of the century New York socialites falling in love and misbehaving. New York's darling debutant, Elizabeth Holland is poised to marry one of the most eligible (and debaucherous) bachelors in the city, but her perfect life is not what it seems.

The Luxe reads like Gossip Girl meets Edith Wharton. Sadly, it has all of the shallowness and poor writing of the former, with little of the intelligence and power of the latter. Godbersen does her best (I guess) to make the time period interesting and appealing to today's teen girl audience, but the result is predictable, flat and strange. It really is as if the GGs had put on costumes and were playing at The Age Of Innocence*: their actions and dialogue is not well-suited to the time or the story. This isn't to say that they can't be scandalous; I don't buy into a white-washed history. I know people always have skeletons in their closets, regardless of the morés of the time. More so, even, in a repressive society. Wharton demonstrated that expertly. But the actions of the characters in this book seem too careless and intentionally shocking, and as such seems silly. It's hard as well to feel for the characters. They have very few redeeming qualities, and I was torn between wanting them to have the happy ending that was (obviously-parading-as-stealthily) coming and seeing them get what they actually deserved.

The structuring was a bit weird for me as well, especially when it came to conversations between the characters. One character would say something, and then Godbersen would spend a whole nice-sized paragraph describing something (the rich scene, someone's dress, some incident from the past, whatever), and then the character who was spoken to would respond. By that point, I was completely out of the flow of conversation and had no idea what had been said in the first place and had to look back to follow the thread of dialogue. It was a strange choice on her part and her editor's. And though some description of finery and scene were necessary, they were a bit overdone and tended to overwhelm the story (or maybe mask a lack of it); if I had had to read about 'pocket doors' one more effing time, I may have had a fit of hysterics like some of the characters were prone to.

This is not to say that teen girls won't find this book just heart-flutteringly terrific. If Godbersen set out to write a soap opera dressed up as historical literature, she succeeded at that, and there is a market for it, as demonstrated by the very successful series that has sprung from this book. For me though, it's a shame it didn't live up to its pretty cover.

Bonus Material:
The BM is going to be fairly short and sweet today (unlike my review...;p)

Of course, these books have their own site. And like the books it's beautiful. You can enter to win the whole series, download wallpapers and profile backgrounds, and read letters from author, Anna.

I mentioned Edith Wharton a lot in my review, so maybe you want to skip over the fluff and go straight for the stuff, ehh? (okay, that was lame). Anyway, you can read or listen to various works by Wharton here thanks to the fantastic Project Gutenberg.

Here's a trailer that uses bits of various period piece films. Lovely, if anachronistic...

*Yes, I am aware that they did in fact have an episode where they did this. I didn't watch it, but I'm sure it was better than this book. So just get yourself a copy of that episode.


  1. Misty, I have seen this book around and I too liked the cover. I was a bit unsure about the story line. Great, honest review, I am going to put this one on my library list.

  2. Hrrmmm...may skip this one for now. Libba Bray's series will be my historical fiction read for the year, methinks.

  3. Don't even get me started on Libba Bray...

  4. I love historical fiction but think I'll give this one a miss. Thanks for that honest review.

  5. been meaning to give this series a try. mostly because of the lucious covers. but maybe not. thanks for the heads up.

  6. Eh, I didn't really like this book. I couldn't get into it so I gave up. I might try to read it when I don't have anymore books. And Libba Bray!? I love her.

  7. Too bad, I'm a big Wharton fan. Never even heard of Gossip Girl.

  8. I've read this book myself but never reviewed it on the blog. While I enjoyed it to an extent, I felt like it was lacking a bit in depth as well. Thanks for the honest review!

    Natalie @ Mindful Musings

  9. I like this series. It's more of a guilty pleasure for me. (I call it brain candy.) I've read up to the third book and there really needs to be some tying up of ends soon or I'm going to lose interest.

    I can see where you're coming from with this review, but I found the story pretty engaging and an amusing read.

  10. Historical fiction I doubt will ever be for me, as much as I like watching costume dramas on TV/at the cinema - and your review made me certain that this series isn't one I want to read, no matter how popular it seems. I can't be doing with girls being silly, and it sounds like they are throughout. Not my cup of tea. Thanks for the review!

  11. I read this several years ago. It was one of the few non-urban fantasies I had and I enjoyed it, although not one of my favs. However, I'd own these books just for the gorgeous covers!

  12. I love the cover too, and yes it does read kind of flat.


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