Anna Godbersen – Envy
Length: 406 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Started: 18 February 2009
Finished: 19 February 2009
How long has it been on my TBR pile? It’s been on my library request list since it came out in late January.
Verdict? I’m not dying to own my own copy, but I’d probably re-read it on a sick day if I did.
Sex, scandal, and lies
in 1900s New York.
So fluffy, but fun.
**This review contains spoilers for The Luxe and Rumors**
Summary: It’s roughly six weeks since the scheming Penelope married Henry Schoonmaker, who had previously been 1899 Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor. Unfortunately, he’s still in love with Diana Holland – and she with him – but Penelope has threatened to ruin Diana’s reputation if Henry doesn’t shape up and start acting the part of doting husband. Diana’s elder sister Elizabeth isn’t being much help, either, as she’s still reeling from the death of her husband – a fact she can’t make public, as Will was a stable-boy, and their marriage must be kept secret from the harsh judgment of society. Elizabeth’s former maid, Lina, is continuing to bluff her way into high society, with the help of a doting elderly wealthy gentleman. Seeking to secure her place in society (and torment her real and perceived rivals), Penelope organizes a trip to Florida for all of the young socialites, where secrets, sex, and scandal can bloom away from the ever-present eye of society gossip.
Review: This was an excellent book to break me out of my recent reading funk. It was trashy good fun; it required the brain power of a couple of issues of Us Weekly: 1900s edition; and it was compellingly scandalous enough to keep me wanting to read more. It had been a while since I’d read Rumors, but I fell back into the world of the uppercrust Manhattanites quickly, and the book did a nice job of reminding me what had come before without overly belaboring the previous plot points. Less lucky were some of the descriptions – I get that a lot of the frothy fun of these books revolves around the frilly dresses and furniture, and paragraph-long descriptions of those are fine by me, as they change every scene. On the other hand, I do not need to be reminded about the “pouty” or “bee-stung” lips of a character every time she appears, and by the end of the book I was ready to scream if I had to see Lina’s eyes described as “lichen-colored” or “sage-colored” one more time. (For the record, Ms. Godbersen, the word you are looking for is “green”… unless you meant “orange”, which is not an uncommon color for lichen to be, and which I will henceforth choose to believe, since it makes me giggle.)
I also got a bit annoyed in the middle of the book, because most of the characters were guilty of my number one personality pet-peeve: making bad decisions that make their lives more complicated and difficult, and then whining about how unfair life is while not taking any concrete steps to make it better. By the end, however, almost everyone had twigged to the fact that they were being obnoxious and whiny, and had sacked up and started acting to change things. Overall, while I thought Rumors was guilty of retreading a lot of the same ground as The Luxe, Envy struck out for some new territory, and I’ll be interested to see how things wrap up in the fourth (and apparently final?) book, Splendor, whenever it comes out. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Obviously not Quality Literature, but perfect guilty-pleasure fun for a beach, airplane, sick day, read-a-thon, or reading funk.
Links: Official series site (careful, there’s automatic sound)
First Line: For a certain kind of New York girl, everything must always be in its place.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 38: ““Good night,” he answered, pausing only to pick up his hat and tie as he walked into the adjoining room, where he sometimes took his tea, and to the black leather sofa with the piles of kilim pillows in its corners” – a pileless, tapestry-woven rug or other covering made in various parts of the Middle East, eastern Europe, and Turkestan.
- p. 77: “The plates bearing half-eaten timbales of chicken were being removed from the right-hand side of the Holland family’s guests, to be replaced – Elizabeth knew very well, for she had overseen the menu – by filet of beef with asparagus.” – a preparation, usually richly sauced, of minced meat, fish, or vegetables served in a small shell made of batter or other crust.
- p. 134: ““Their architecture is so fascinating to me, all the minarets and mihrabs, all the arches and tiles, all that intricate calligraphy.”” – a niche in the wall of a mosque or a room in the mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca.
- p. 139: ““She is reportedly traveling with only a maid and without her usual chaperone, Mr. Carey Lewis Longhorn, which may make some of those new friends chary, although it will certainly make none of us lose interest.”” – cautious or careful; wary
- p. 192: “The throng – in their tuxedos and laces, their well-oiled hair shining rosily under the many warm-colored electric lights, which were strung across the ceiling of the pergolalike dance floor of the hotel – twittered and clapped, but Diana Holland couldn’t listen anymore.” – an arbor formed of horizontal trelliswork supported on columns or posts, over which vines or other plants are trained.