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In 2014, I made a resolution to read all of the out of copyright e-books I've amassed. This was number one.

The Gorgeous Girl, by Nalbro Bartley (1920)

Summary:
Steven O'Valley is a self-made millionaire who has won his war fortune to earn the hand of Beatrice, the beautiful daughter of his billionaire former boss. Mary Faithful works as his office manager, motivated by her common sense and her unrequited love for him. Side characters include Trudy, a tough as nails flapper who boards at Mary's house and is determined to enter good society by any means necessary, and her boyfriend, the selfish and idiotic Gaylord who gets by on the good name of his once wealthy family.

Review:

Many books of the twenties are also treaties on the changing role of women at the time and this was no exception. The final conclusion was a bit unclear but it was a lot about the Gorgeous Girls, young rich girls raised to be unfit for anything but having a "good time" and the business women or "commercial nun" working hard and trying to hide their romantic longings.

But I liked the prose and the shifting POV. It was paced pretty well and I liked the characters too. I would definitely really Another book by this author.

I can't find a picture of the cover, but there were four fabulous illustrations inside.

 photo illus-012_zps52c38ea9.jpg
"The Gorgeous Girl had known only the most gorgeous side of life."


Favorite Quotes:
Mary to Trudy: "You're foolish today. If only you wouldn't wear such low-cut waists and talk to the men! Mr. O'Valley has noticed it."
***
The description of Beatrice, titular Gorgeous Girl:
She was nearly twenty-four, almost as slight of figure as a child, as dainty as Watteau's most delicate imaginings, with tiny, nondescript features, lovely sunshine hair, and big dove-coloured eyes with pale-gold lashes.
***
"If all honest men steal umbrellas and kisses, so do all honest women fib as to the size of their shoes and the person the love best of all the world!
***
Beatrice: "I can't sleep unless I take a powder, and I can't have any enthusiasm in the morning unless I have oodles of black coffee."
***
The Gatsby Era Elite:
He felt ill at ease in Beatrice's salon and among her friends, who all seemed particularly inane and ridiculous who were all just as busy and tired and nervous as Beatrice was for some strange reason and who considered it middle class not to smoke and common to show any natural sentiment or emotion. [cut] A queer little smirk or titter was the proper applause, but one must wax enthusiastic and superlative over a clever burglary, a new-style dance, a chafing-dish concoction, or a risque story retold in drawing-room language.
***
This one seems to be one of the most common themes of 1920s novels:
In America fathers often repress their daughters' self-sufficiency and intellect by bonds of self-indulgence, and when the daughters realize that a stockade of dollars is the most flimsy fortress in the world against the experiences with come to every man and woman, the American girls are the mental complement of their physically tortured Chinese cousins - hopeless and without redress.
***
Steven, on Trudy and Gaylord:
"Are you going to have them round all the time? That woman's laugh gets on my nerves, and I want him shot at sunrise. They can't talk about anything but the movies and jazz dancing and clothes."
***

Mary was about Beatrice's age. At thirteen, she had begun to earn her own living. At thirteen, Beatrice had had a pony cart, a governess, a multitude of frocks, her midwinter trip to New York, where she saw all the musical comedies and gorged on chocolates and pastry.
***
Mary's analysis of American women of the period:
"Everyone of those Frumps, Funnies and Frills apes the Gorgeous Girl kind...
Gorgeous Girls, new-rich with sickly consciences and lack of principle and common sense; and these Gorgeous Girls in turn take their styles, slang phrases, and modes of recreation, as well as theories of life from the boldest dancer, the most sensational chorus girl."
***
More thoughts on why the Gorgeous Girl came to exist:
"Don't you think this Gorgeous Girl parasitical type is a result of the Victorian revolt? Too late for themselves the Victorian matrons said: 'Our daughters shall never slave as we have done; they shall be ladies - and have careers too, bless their hearts.' The Victorian Matrons were emerging from the unfair conditions of ignorance and drudgery and they could only realize one side of the argument-that all work and no play made Jill quite a stupid girl.
But we must grasp the other side of the matter - that all play and no work makes her simply impossible; that culture and self-sufficiency can go hand in hand."
***
"Platonic friendship does exist but it is like tropical twilight - the one whirlwind second in which brilliant sunshine and blue skies dip down and the stars and the moon dash up - and then the trick is done!"
***
[Beatrice] was thinking chaotic, rebellious, ridiculous nothings, punctuated with uneven ragged thoughts about matching gloves to gowns or getting potted goose livers at the East-Side story Trudy had just recommended.
***
Mary: "...for like all heartless flirts [Beatrice] is jealous - ashamed of Steve half of the time and mad about him the other half."
***
There is something splendid and breathless in trying to shut away a forbidden rapture, and being unable to do so; in telling oneself one will never try repression again and register a desire to thrill to it whenever possible.
***
Mary “Are you every bored?”
Trudy “Only enough to be fashionable.”
***
Why Mary did not realize that happiness was within her reach, and why Steve did not realize that Mary adored him, and why they were not in the throes of talking over her lawyer and my lawyer and alimony but we love each other and let the whole world go hang- was not within Trudy’s jurisdiction to determine.
***
Nor did she permit Steve to come snarling – masculine fashion of sobbing – at her vain protests trying to shake her from her resolve.
***
At one time Steve would have noted only that white tulle and pearls spun witchery, and her skirt possessed the charm of a Hawaiian girl’s dancing costume.
***
Beatrice: “The thing that does hurt…is the fact that I’d honestly like to feel broken-hearted – but I don’t know how. I’ve been brought up in such a gorgeous fashion that it would take a jewel robbery or an unbecoming hat to wring my soul.”
****


Contains spoilers, but let's be honest, most people aren't going to read this book anyway!
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