Anna Godbersen: The Luxe

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Anna Godbersen The Luxe
  • Название:
    The Luxe
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
  • Жанр:
    Историческая проза / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2007
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    0061345660
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The Luxe: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn. Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions. White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups. This is Manhattan, 1899. Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan's social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City's elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone--from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud--threatens Elizabeth's and Diana's golden future. With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city's gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan's most celebrated daughter disappear... In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.

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Anna Godbersen

The Luxe

Luxe-1

For Suzanne and Gordon

It was the old New York way…the way of people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than “scenes,” except the behaviour of those who gave rise to them.

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

Prologue

On the morning of October 4, 1899, Elizabeth Adora Holland the eldest daughter of the late Mr. Edward Holland and his widow, Louisa Gansevoort Holland passed into the kingdom of heaven. Services will be held tomorrow, Sunday the eighth, at 10 a.m., at the Grace Episcopal Church at No. 800 Broadway in Manhattan.

— FROM THE OBITUARY PAGE OF THE NEW-YORK NEWS OF THE WORLD GAZETTE, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7, 1899


IN LIFE, ELIZABETH ADORA HOLLAND WAS KNOWN not only for her loveliness but also for her moral character, so it was fair to assume that in the afterlife she would occupy a lofty seat with an especially good view. If Elizabeth had looked down from that heavenly perch one particular October morning on the proceedings of her own funeral, she would have been honored to see that all of New York’s best families had turned out to say good-bye.

They crowded Broadway with their black horse-drawn carriages, proceeding gravely toward the corner of East Tenth Street, where the Grace Church stood. Even though there was currently no sun or rain, their servants sheltered them with great black umbrellas, hiding their faces etched with shock and sadness from the public’s prying eyes. Elizabeth would have approved of their somberness and also of their indifferent attitude to the curious workaday people pressed up to the police barricades. The crowds had come to wonder at the passing of that perfect eighteen-year-old girl whose glittering evenings had been recounted in the morning papers to brighten their days.

A cold snap had greeted all of New York that morning, rendering the sky above an unfathomable gray. It was, Reverend Needlehouse murmured as his carriage pulled up to the church, as if God could no longer imagine beauty now that Elizabeth Holland no longer walked his earth. The pallbearers nodded in agreement as they followed the reverend onto the street and into the shadow of the Gothic-style church.

They were Liz’s peers, the young men she had danced quadrilles with at countless balls. They had disappeared to St. Paul’s and Exeter at some point and then returned with grown-up ideas and a fierce will to flirt. And here they were now, in black frock coats and mourning bands, looking grave for perhaps the first time ever.

First was Teddy Cutting, who was known for being so lighthearted and who had proposed marriage to Elizabeth twice without anyone taking him seriously. He looked as elegant as always, although Liz would have noted the fair stubble on his chin a telltale sign of deep sorrow, as Teddy was shaved by his valet every morning and was never seen in public without a smooth face. After him came the dashing James Hazen Hyde, who had just that May inherited a majority share of the Equitable Life Assurance Society. He’d once let his face linger near Elizabeth’s gardenia-scented neck and told her she smelled better than any of the mademoiselles in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. After James came Brody Parker Fish, whose family’s town house neighbored the Hollands’ on Gramercy Park, and then Nicholas Livingston and Amos Vreewold, who had often competed to be Elizabeth’s partner on the dance floor.

They stood still with downcast eyes, waiting for Henry Schoonmaker, who emerged last. The refined mourners could not help a little gasp at the sight of him, and not only because he was usually so wickedly bright-eyed and so regularly with a drink in hand. The tragic irony of Henry appearing as a pallbearer on the very day when he was to have wed Elizabeth seemed deeply unfair.

The horses drawing the hearse were shiny black, but the coffin was decorated with an enormous white satin bow, for Elizabeth had died a virgin. What a shame, they all whispered, blowing ghostly gusts of air into one another’s ears, that an early death was visited on such a very good girl.

Henry, his thin lips set in a hard line, moved toward the hearse with the other pallbearers close behind. They lifted the unusually light coffin and stepped toward the church door. A few audible sobs were muffled into handkerchiefs as all of New York realized they would never again look on Liz’s beauty, on her porcelain skin or sincere smile. There was, in fact, no Liz, for her body had not yet been recovered from the Hudson River, despite two days of dragging it, and despite the handsome reward offered by Mayor Van Wyck.

The whole ceremony had come on rather quickly, in fact, although everyone seemed too shocked to consider this.

Next in the funeral cortege was Elizabeth’s mother, wearing a dress and a veil in her favorite color. Mrs. Edward Holland, née Louisa Gansevoort, had always seemed fearsome and remote even to her own children and she had only become harder and more intractable since her husband’s passing last winter. Edward Holland had been odd, and his oddness had only grown in the years before his death. He had, however, been the eldest son of an eldest son of a Holland a family that had prospered on the little island of Manhattan since the days when it was called New Amsterdam and so society had always forgiven him his quirks. But in the weeks before her own death, Elizabeth had noticed something new and pitiable in her mother as well. Louisa leaned a little to the left now, as though remembering her late husband’s presence.

In her footsteps was Elizabeth’s aunt Edith, the younger sister of her late father. Edith Holland was one of the first women to move prominently in society after a divorce; it was understood, though not very much discussed, that her early marriage to a titled Spaniard had exposed her to enough bad humor and drunken debauchery for a whole lifetime. She went by her maiden name now, and looked as aggrieved by the loss of her niece as if Elizabeth had been her own child.

There followed an odd gap, which everyone was too polite to comment on, and then came Agnes Jones, who was sniffling loudly.

Agnes was not a tall girl, and though she appeared well dressed enough to the mourners still pressing against the police line for a better look, the black dress she wore would have been sadly familiar to the deceased. Elizabeth had worn the dress only once to her father’s funeral and then passed it down. It had since been let out at the waist and shortened at the hem. As Elizabeth knew too well, Agnes’s father had met with financial ruin when she was only eleven and had subsequently thrown himself off the Brooklyn Bridge. Agnes liked to tell people that Elizabeth was the only person who had offered her friendship in those dark times. Elizabeth had been her best friend, Agnes had often said, and though Elizabeth would have been embarrassed by such exaggerated statements, she wouldn’t have dreamed of correcting the poor girl.

After Agnes came Penelope Hayes, who was usually said to be Elizabeth’s true best friend. Elizabeth would indeed have recognized the distinct look of impatience she wore now. Penelope never liked waiting, especially out of doors. One of the lesser Mrs. Vanderbilts standing nearby recognized that look as well, and made a virtually inaudible cluck. Penelope, with her gleaming black feathers, Egyptian profile, and wide, heavily lashed eyes, was much admired but not very generally trusted.

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