Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Posted January 2, 2011 by paperrdolls 0 Comments


In the anything-goes era of the roaring twenties, all the world belongs to bright young things. They’re flappers and socialites—carefree girls seeking thrills and chasing dreams—and Letty Larkspur, Cordelia Grey, and Astrid Donal shine brighter than all the rest.

On a hot summer night in 1929, Letty and Cordelia escape their small Midwestern town for New York. There, they’ll find love, chase fame, and meet a flapper named Astrid, who has everything a girl could ever want.

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 as they march toward their own secret fates.

Review: I’ve always been a fan of historical fiction. I blame the countless hours I spent as a child watching Little House on the Prairie instead of playing outside like all the other little children. About a year ago, I picked up Godbersen’s The Luxe Series – a series that focuses on the trails and tribulations of a set of girls in the early 1900’s living in Manhattan. Despite sometimes feeling a little forced (a danger of historical fiction – forcing modern situations and ideals into a society where they most certainly would not have occurred without great consequences) , the series was a quick, fun read. Escapism lit at it’s best.

Until the end that is.

Godbersen threw the fans a curve ball when a particular pairing does NOT end up together in the end. Usually, I’m fine with this kind of thing. Not all love affairs end well in life, so I can learn to accept them in fiction. My problem is she forced the reader to spend four books rooting for them only to make them decide not to be together in some new-found idea of feminism. I consider myself a feminist and even I was outraged. I feel like there should be a rule about a series lasting longer than three books having to have happy endings (I’m looking at you A Great and Terrible Beauty).

Needless to say, I was a little hesitant to pick up Godbersen’s latest novel. But I’m glad I did. A HUGE fan of the roaring 20’s, I loved seeing all the speakeasies and bootlegging. And reading the novel, I’d often stop and read a line aloud because it was so beautifully done. Maybe she was trying to emulate F. Scott Fitzgerald. If she was she did so with success. I loved seeing the way she played with language.

And, perhaps because of the fan response to her last book, Godbersen lets the reader know this isn’t going to end well for all her characters. The very opening lets you know one will die, one will become famous, and one will get married. And unlike Luxe, there isn’t really a romantic couple I started to root for. Not yet at least. Either Godbersen is merely setting the reader up for these romantic pairings in the next book, or maybe the focus of the series is  really about a group of girls looking for their voice. Something I can get behind.

Is the novel a little forced? Sure. But Godbersen’s lush settings and effortlessly lovely writing make Bright Young Things an enjoyable read. There’s some girl power starting to bud in here, and I looked forward to seeing it flourish in the next book.


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