Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Luxe

The Luxe

Anna Godbersen
Fiction  Series
For ages 13 and up
HarperCollins, 2008   ISBN: 0061345687

Elizabeth Holland comes from a prosperous and very well connected family. In her world in New York City in 1899, people in her situation are watched with great interest by society. She is expected to look beautiful, to behave with great gentility, and to do what is expected of her. Just back from a sojourn in Paris, Elizabeth is immediately thrown into the New York social scene. At first she does not know why her mother insists on her being at Penelope Hayes' party, but some days later her mother finally admits that the family is in dire need of money. Unfortunately, Elizabeth's father left considerable debts behind him when he died and the Hollands are not as well off as they look. Elizabeth's mother explains that it is up to Elizabeth to save the Holland family from disgrace; she must marry soon and she must marry well.

The very idea of being forced into an advantageous marriage appalls Elizabeth, who has fallen in love with a coachman, Will Keller. How can she bear to give up on her dreams of a life with Will? At the same time how can she even contemplate forcing her mother and sister into a life of poverty by not marrying a rich man?

Meanwhile Henry Schoonmaker has a conversation with his father. His father explains that either Henry must get married to a respectable young lady or he will be taken out of his father's will. Henry's father has even gone to the trouble of choosing a bride for his decadent son; he has chosen Elizabeth Holland.

So, it would seem that two young people must marry because one family needs money and the other needs respectability, and yet many problems lie ahead for Elizabeth and Henry. A vindictive maid, a humiliated and angry society princess, and sheer ill luck come together to give these two young people many days of considerable unhappiness and worry.

In this highly entertaining book the author paints a picture of a society which is rife with hypocrisy, secrets, and ill concealed maliciousness. Anyone who has thought with nostalgia about how wonderful it would have been to be the son or daughter of a society person at the turn of the century will rapidly become disabused of his or her dreams. These people were not kind and thoughtful, generous and sensitive. They were self serving, often downright nasty, and even, possibly, dangerous.