“Bright Young Things” by Anna Godbersen is a young-adult novel set in the Jazz Age. The book follows the lives of three young girls in (and around) New York City, where love, secrets, fame and adventures are just around the corner.
Cordelia and Letty are from Ohio. They go to New York City together, although they part ways over an argument. For these two girls, New York City is a place of dreams and new wonders; “New York was more extraordinary than a girl from Ohio could possibly have imagined, that it was a place of wonders where the citizens used the sky as their tablet and airplanes for pens.”
Cordelia grew up with her aunt and uncle, and, although her mother is dead, she is not certain of who her father is and is determined to find him. Letty has a beautiful voice and wants to be on the stage, although she discovers some people expect more than just talent. Astrid lives with her mother (who’s had more than a few husbands) on Long Island, home of rich parties.
Although — and I will admit this — I have never loved historical fictions, I found this book engaging and fun to read. First, my grandparents were children in the Jazz Age and it’s interesting to look at a piece of history not so far back. Additionally, Godbersen really paints a picture of 1929, making it easy to visualize the characters in an older, different New York City. Not only is the period set, but words make “Bright Young Things” feels as if it were truly from another time, fully placing the reader in another era.
Although fellow readers may assume that this old English is the functionally unintelligible ‘olde englishe’ of Chaucer, “Bright young Things” is easy to read and flows well.
In fact, throughout the book, Godbersen’s prose carries the reader forward. Her descriptions are clear and beautiful, and the cadence of her words is almost poetic. I found one of my favorite passages early on. Cordelia is filled with the excitement of her future in New York City and can’t sleep. “But her eyes were wild, and there was so much electricity in every corner of her head and heart — she was too alive with awake dreams to try to have any of the other variety.”
Although “Bright Young Things” is no deep, moral, thought-provoking novel, it is a fun read, with engaging characters, a fascinating historical era, and delicious phrases and passages. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, light book, and who doesn’t mind a large dose of romance.