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The Wings of Youth

January 3, 2018

I tracked down The Wings of Youth after starting another book by Elizabeth Jordan and realizing it had to be the sequel to something. The sketch of Barbara and Lawrence Devon’s adventures given by a guest at Barbara’s wedding made them sound pretty good, but actually they’re fantastic. My only complaint is that The Wings of Youth is a silly title, which makes me not want to discuss the book out loud.

Not that it’s a great work of literature, or anything like that. It’s just an appealing premise executed very well. The Devons are hugely wealthy, but really all the money belongs to Barbara, as Laurie has been the wasteful and irresponsible one from a young age. She gives him whatever he needs, but it’s not a comfortable position for him, and while he’s bitterly aware that drinking, gambling, and failing at every job anyone gives him aren’t helping his case, he can’t seem to do anything else. Barbara, worried for her brother and bored with her own life, suggests the following plan: they’ll assume false names and go to New York, where they will each, separately, try to earn their living for a year. If Laurie doesn’t drink or gamble at all in that year, he gets a big chunk of money from Barbara. If he earns more money than she does, he gets even more.

Both of them kind of expect that Barbara will do well and Laurie won’t, but of course that’s not how it goes. Barbara starts by losing her purse and having to accept help from a handsome stranger, and while she quickly pawns some of her belongings and finds a job, she has a hard time living on her salary. Meanwhile Laurie, after fruitlessly job-searching for weeks, stumbles into a career he’s perfectly fitted for. It’s all formula, but it’s the right formula, with the right trimmings. The Devons both work hard, and take their jobs seriously. They make friends who are more than just props. Even Barbara’s handsome stranger, who falls in love with her at first sight, makes love at first sight seem totally fine and not obnoxious.

Barbara’s practical best friend Sonya tells her early on that being so obviously used to better circumstances will make trouble for her, but it’s Barbara and Laurie’s wealth and upbringing that bring them both such success as they have. Neither of them really knows anything about the value of money, but they both have skills and education and confidence, and those are at least as important as their industry. Barbara is no better at addressing envelopes than the girls she works with, and why should she be? Anyway, it’s all basically a fairy tale, and as such isn’t particularly realistic, but I require these small nods to realism to hold my attention, and Elizabeth Jordan incorporates them beautifully.

Barbara and Laurie both have all kinds of interesting things going on, but Barbara gets the majority of the pages, and the only love story (unless you count the bit where Laurie and a friend are bidding each other an emotional goodnight and I said, “Now kiss”), so I’m guessing the sequel will mostly belong to Laurie, and I’m super excited for it.

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6 comments

  1. Well this sounds delightful


    • It is.


  2. I downloaded this last night, and I didn’t mean to start it, but I skimmed the first page and it pulled me in. What was the name of the sequel?


    • Yeah, I know the feeling: I sort of raced through it without meaning to. The sequel is called The Girl in the Mirror, and so far it’s enjoyable but also a little irritating.


  3. Wings of Youth: good stuff, although some aspects of the ending were a bit odd. However, the sequel bugged me, especially the conclusion (the protagonist for the first fair chunk of the book: also especially annoying). But so many plot holes were left – some of them probably could have been explained if the book had decided to explain, but without even a mild attempt at making a stack of things properly… eh. It was probably put at a greater disadvantage by my having just re-read The Secret Adversary, though.

    (Okay, plus I was just plain disappointed that she didn’t hide the note under the carpet for him to find. That seemed like The Thing To Do given everything, and I was sad that the chance was missed. Oh, well.)


    • The carpet thing never occurred to me, but you’re right: if there’s no callback to it, what was that part even for?



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