Bright Young Things By Anna Godbersen
I'm a huge fan of the 1920's, both as a historian and as a backdrop for literature. The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time favorite books. Anna Godbersen does a good job capturing the time, and all the things you would expect to be there are there - the clothes, the booze, gangsters, guns, and of course, Jazz.
I had high expectations for this book, as I just finished The Luxe series, but I have to admit I did not enjoy this book as much as her other series. A lot of the elements that I loved about the other series were missing from this one. For example, in The Luxe books, each chapter began with a letter, an invitation, a clipping from the society pages, etc., that foreshadowed the events to come in the chapter. This is not the case in Bright Young Things. There is some foreshadowing in the Prologue of the book, when the author writes, "They were all marching toward their own secret fates, and long before the next decade rolled around, each would escape in her own way - one would be famous, one would be married, and one would be dead." But as I read this book, I found that I missed that element.
Having said that, I did like the book, and would recommend that you read it. The narrative continually switches perspective like the other series, and I love how Anna Godbersen manages to weave all of the stories together. And upon further reflection, I'm sure that I will come to appreciate the differences between the two series, and that they are not in fact cookie-cutter reproductions of each other. I might not have this initial reaction if I had not started this series on the heals of finishing the other. I liked it enough to pick up the second book: Beautiful Days. The third book, The Lucky Ones, is schedule to be released on September 18, 2012.
Okay...I'm going to dig into some of the plot points, so if you don't want to know what happens, STOP READING NOW!!
Bright Young Things begins with a wedding - the rather rushed wedding of Cordelia Grey, who is being forced to marry a small-town boy named John, after the two of them were caught in a compromising position. Soon after the wedding, Cordelia and her best friend Letty, run off and catch the train from Ohio to New York City. Letty comes from an oppressive household, where all the joy of life seems to have died when her mother passed away. Letty dreams of being a famous singer on Broadway. While Letty dreams of becoming a star, Cordelia dreams of finding her father, a man her grandmother refers to as no good. Shortly after arriving in the city, the two girls get into a fight and separate.
Letty is taken in by some girls she meets in a speakeasy and gets a job as a cigarette girl. She catches the eye of a young writer named Grady, and although she is less enthralled with him, she quickly comes to see him as a friend. A few weeks pass, and Cordelia suddenly appears with a handsome stranger, at the speakeasy where Letty works. Rather than face her friend as a cigarette girl, Letty takes a chance and jumps on stage and sings a song with the band. By the end of the song, Cordelia has disappeared again, but Letty has a new admirer, Amory Glenn, whose father owns several theaters. Mr. Glenn sets out to woo Letty, and offers her a chance to sing for some very important men. It turns out that Letty was played and that she was expected to do a lot more than sing. She returns to her apartment dejected and finds out that she has lost her job and her roommates want her out. With nowhere else to turn, she heads to Grady's house, only to see him from a distance with another woman.
Cordelia, after having split from Letty, sets off to find her long lost father, who turns out to be the notorious bootlegger Darius Grey. She also learns that she has a half-brother named Charlie, who is less than thrilled at her arrival. Charlie also happens to be dating Cordelia's new best friend, Astrid. Cordelia is taken under the protected and privileged wing of her father, and it would appear that her story is turning out far better than Letty's. Cordelia's story takes a Shakespearean turn when she meets and falls for Thom Hale, the son of her father's competitor and enemy. She and Thom embark on a secret romance, which is discovered by Cordelia's father. She is forbidden to see Thom again. However, Cordelia cannot fight the draw she feels towards Thom and continues her relationship despite her father's wishes. Her love affair, ultimately leads to the death of her father, apparently at the hands of her lover, Thom. Cordelia attempts to take her revenge on Thom, but is unsuccessful.
Astrid's relationship with Charlie hits a serious bump, when she catches him in bed with another woman. Astrid is devastated, but still loves Charlie. She is torn over what to do, but finds herself not only forgiving Charlie for his indiscretion, but also agreeing to marry him.
Cordelia returns home after her failed attempt to avenge her father's death, and rescuing the famed pilot, Max Darby, after his plane crashes. Her brother welcomes her back to the fold, somewhat reluctantly, and she retires to her room to find Letty waiting there for her.