Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Lady be Good

Title:  Lady Be Good
Author:  Amber Brock
Publication Information:  Crown. 2018. 288 pages.
ISBN:  1524760404 / 978-1524760403

Book Source:  I received this book through Penguin First to Read free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Kitty Tessler sat at the long wooden bar in the Palm on a chilly Friday evening, steadily losing confidence that her date deserved the seat next to her."

Favorite Quote:  "She hadn't known her world as well as she'd thought. She saw injustices, small and large, things she never would have noticed before. A certain group prohibited from this building. A muttered word to that person. If those were the things she could see, how much more was hidden? And the penthouses of Manhattan always towered high above it all, far away from the realities on the ground. But as she went out into the city each day, pieces of it began to seep into her. She took bits of her experiences with her, and they began to reshape the map of her home in her mind. She was newly arrived in a different world."

The lady in question is Kitty Tessler. Kitty's father Nicolas Tessler owns and runs numerous hotels; they live in the Penthouse of the hotel in New York. Yet, Kitty feels that she does not fit into New York high society. Her father worked his way to rich and is "new" money. The old money families still rule New York society, and it is definitely a closed group. Kitty's best friend Henrietta Bancroft belongs to such a family and thus has a status that Kitty aspires to.

The "be good" can be interpreted in many different ways depending on your perspective. Be good; in other words, don't rock the boat. Be good as in stick to society's established rules. Be good and follow what your father asks of you. Be good in staying true to yourself. Be good in moral terms.

The theme of this book is prejudice, along all different parameters and in all different directions. Two alternatives exist:
  • "Those who couldn't hide being Cuban or Dominican, or Jewish, didn't. They had to live with the restrictions or face consequences. Those who could hide, on the other hand, had to choose to bury part of themselves to be accepted. It was more than pretending to be part of the elite. It was pretending to be someone you weren't. Disowning and disavowing your memories, your home, and your family."
  • "I'm proud of who I am, no matter what doors close on me because of it."
The book puts the theme in the 1950s amidst a story of the ultra rich, the "high" society, travel, beautiful people, and a young woman who has led a relatively sheltered life. As Kitty emerges from her sheltered upbringing, she finds that the prejudice she faces, while hurtful, is relatively benign compared to the harsher realities of life. As she meets people in her New York home and as she travels to Miami and to Havana, Cuba, she is exposed for the first time to cultures and thoughts beyond hers.

To a great extent, this book is a journey of self-discovery and almost a coming of age story for Kitty Tessler. However, the plot puts her journey in the context of a romance. Kitty's father has plans to marry her off to protect his business interests and to ensure that Kitty has someone to take care of her; the guy is honest and sincere but not Kitty's choice. Kitty has someone in mind; he is a "catch" who will help her climb the social ladder and gain her the old money acceptability that she covets. Oh, he is also her best friend's fiance and not a nice guy. The best friend Henrietta has ideas of her own. Then, there is the guy who emerges from nowhere. He is not acceptable in any way, but.... Can you see where this is going?

The romance plots in many ways takes over. The statement about equality and prejudice is still made but in the context of the romance, making both less impactful. The end result is a simpler summer beach read, as the cover suggests.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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