Bright Young Things

Oh, fiddlesticks. What a ridiculous series!

*contains spoilers for Bright Young Things (#1) and The Lucky Ones (#3) by Anna Godbersen.
*contains also spoilers for Rumors (Luxe #2) by Anna Godbersen.

I always thought this would be Cordelia. It turns out it's Astrid Donal!
I always thought this would be Cordelia. It turns out it’s Astrid Donal!

It starts out well enough: Two young girls from middle of nowhere in Ohio escape to NYC during the heights of Prohibition – Cordelia Grey (who just got married to her country “sweetheart”) and Letty Haubstadt/Larkspur, who has a beautiful voice but not the confidence to match.

Yay, fun! Parties, pretty things, lots of booze as if Prohibition don’t mean a thing. Well, yes, it’s all that… and almost nothing else.

I got bored quite easily. The three girls start out separately after Cordelia and Letty fight over petty things. Once Cordelia finds her long-lost father she’d never known Darius Grey, who is now a famous bootlegger (aka illegal alcohol provider during Prohibition), she eases herself into the glittery – and bloody – life of the bootlegger’s daughter. There she meets Astrid Donal, the third girl of the series and who is supposed to look like the girl on the cover (<-). She’s also the sweetheart of Cordelia’s half-brother, Charlie.
At the end of the book all three girls get chummy and not just Cordelia-Astrid or former Cordelia-Letty.

Astrid: party, booze, napping till noon, doing whatever young rich people do, making lovey-dovey eyes at Charlie, getting mad at Charlie, running away from Charlie, being mollified by Charlie’s attempts to woo her back.

Cordelia: party, alcohol here and there, napping till noon, getting to know her father, being wary of her half-brother Charlie, hanging out with Astrid, falling for “Romeo”, feeling guilty about it and resolving to cut all ties to “Romeo”, giving in to “Romeo’s” advances again.

Letty: working as a cigarette girl, blushing, resenting Cordelia every now and then, feeling shy, working, singing, blushing, being innocent.

The girls were quite tedious. None of them interested me although I mostly had fun reading the book. The plot only picked up at the end when Darius Grey gets assassinated. I flipped through Beautiful Days and The Lucky Ones, and it seems Cordelia meets a new young man, with whom she possibly commits a double-suicide at the end of the series; Astrid finally realizes Charlie has head-problems and runs away with her other true love; Letty singing and being adored and being taken advantage of her naiveté, only to elope with her real love to California and becoming famous.

In the prologue in Bright Young Things, the narrator (who turns out to be Billie Marsh) says that “one would be married, one would be famous and one would be dead” referring to these three girls. It’s as I thought – Cordelia’s the dead one, Letty’s the famous one, and Astrid’s the married one; although all three of them were married, actually. Cordelia to John Field, Letty to Grady and Astrid first to Charlie and then to Victor.

This series, compared to Godbersen’s Luxe series, is a lot more bloody. I mean, Will gets shot (speaking of which, there’s a guard called “Keller” – hope his last name is not “Cutting”!) in Rumors and that old man dies at the end of Splendor but other than that, relatively bloodless. Ah ah ah, we are dealing with gangstas in BYT series – and there’ll be more blood than necessary because Charlie is a raging lunatic.

So the conclusion to the series was pretty dramatic but the story dragged its feet like petulant child (or so it feels, even though I’ve only flipped through the pages of the second and third books); I don’t give a damn about the characters, with the possible exception of  Darius Grey, who is dead already by the end of the first book; the romances were insipid. I know it’s not fair, but I kept comparing the characters with care-free and brave Diana, wary and romantic Lizzie, cunning and seductive (yet unscrupulous) Penelope, and even with jealous and petty Carolina.


EDIT (3/12/2014): I feel the need to add something. I knew that “bright young things” was a term that actually existed, but it wasn’t until today that Wikipedia told me that they were “young aristocrats and socialites who threw fancy dress parties, went on elaborate treasure hunts, were seen in all the trendy venues, and were well covered by the gossip columns of the London tabloids” because apparently they were young people of England! I didn’t know that.
ANYWAY so maybe Anna Godbersen was right in portraying the whole people and scenery as she did – you know, excessive amount of parties, glamour, showing off of wealth, speakeasies and drinking and all that. Maybe the plot was meant to be boring, to put us into the right atmosphere… Eh. Okay, probably not.
So maybe I have read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald first, after all. I could have gotten to know the whole era in a more memoir-ish manner (although Z is a historical fiction) before jumping into pure fiction. So what I’m saying is that I’m willing to give the whole trilogy another shot… in far away future.


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