Villa America – Liza Klaussmann /// Adult – Historical Fiction
So I’ll start by saying Yay! Historical fiction is always a hit-or-miss for me and I feel like it’s been awhile since I’ve read a hit. For everything I didn’t like about this book there was a kajillion other things I did like so it was well worth the read for me. The book centers on the lives of Sara and Gerald Murphy, the real-life inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. So excitement all around for the 1920s drinking scene.
The story being with Gerald and Sara Murphy’s childhood, marriage, and their family life as they move from the States to the French Riviera in the 1920’s where they built their escape that they called Villa America. They were members of the Lost Generation and partied with the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Cole Porter, and countless others. Even though the Murphy’s lived these glamorous lives they were incredibly stable and loving people surrounded by madness.
So I’ll start with what I loved. The parties and the other people. The parties were the greatest thing to read ever. From the glamour to just everyone being drunk and gossiping. Historical gossip is the best gossip and I loved every minute of it. This leads into my next point, I cared a lot more about the other people than the Murphy’s, who are fabulous in their own way, but for the majority they are our eyes into this other life. They get swept in the glamour but they are so stable. Compared to everyone and everything else they are almost boring. Halfway through, I found myself becoming bored with their (very sweet) scenes together. I craved the scenes with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. This is probably half due to the fact that that they were the excitement caring the story forward for me, and also because Zelda Fitzgerald is one of the most interesting people and just continues to fascinate me.
Now what I didn’t love, but I see that plenty of people do, is the addition of the character of Owen. In understand why he is there (sorta) but holy wow is he so one-dimension. When reading the book I had a clear picture in my head of all of the scenes and the parties and the people while he was just almost a stick figure in my head. This might just be my own personal bias because he wasn’t a “real” person so I wasn’t as already attached to him. I will say, I do like Liza Klaussmann added him to highlight the rumors that surrounded Gerald’s sexuality. It was a lot more fun to see Gerald question things with another person than read a snotty old women gossip about him.
“But wine will get you further than flattery with this crowd.”
“Everything is better when you share it, I think. That flow of ideas between different people, the chaos of it all, makes life so exciting. And when someone new comes in, the chemistry changes and you see things in people you hadn’t seen before.”
“I don’t think you’ve ever had a second-rate moment in your life”
Probably not but it made me want to reread Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (so there’s that)
This book is a great addition for anyone who is a fan of the 1920’s art scene and a sweet love story. Definitely worth a first read and I will probably read the books she mentions in the acknowledgements that she read for research.