Review Blog

Dec 03 2009

Envy a Luxe Novel by Anna Godbersen

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Penguin Books, 2009. ISBN 9780141323381.
(Age 15+) It's the year 1900 and the Holland family of No. 17 Gramercy Park South are Manhattan society's favourite family. However tragedy has befallen them over the last year with the father dying, their money disappearing, and daughter Elizabeth having her new husband shot and killed. Her sister Diana has lost her virginity and heart to some-one now unattainable.
In the same town Henry and Penelope Schoonmaker have become the city's most prominent couple. But despite their recent marriage, the newlyweds are barely talking to each other and the marriage remains unconsummated. A certain gossip columnist seems to be receiving very good inside information about the goings on in high society much to the annoyance of the participants.
This is the third book in the Luxe novel series but it can be read as a stand alone title. The 1900 setting brings with it many historical lessons such as the different classes in society and the huge discrepancies in their living conditions. There is envy not only between the classes but within them. The richer set must 'be mindful of appearances' and act with 'propriety', with the females offering 'passive acquiescence.' However, even like today's youth, the decorum disappears when they are away from the public eye.
The language used is not only rich in description but also full of phrases rarely encountered in the 21st century. Terms such as pedlar of secrets, well kempt gentleman and cordial manners will send many of today's students searching for their dictionaries. Nevertheless the themes of wealth, love, beauty and betrayal and the fast paced storyline will keep them turning the pages to see what happens next. Suitable for upper secondary students.
Kay Haarsma

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