[558]: Villa America by Liza Klaussmann


Villa America / Liza Klaussmann

I’ve always been a fan of books that force me to do a bit more than just to read what was written on its pages. I like it when I have to seek out meaning of unfamiliar words or research the locations and the historical figures that were mentioned. Villa America is just that type of novel. It is the story about the couple whose F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night was said to be loosely based on. Upon reading a bit more about the Murphys, I stumbled upon a group of literati also known as the “Lost Generation”. By definition, it is a group of artists that came of age during World War 1. The Murphys, in one way or another, had a hand in this.

Gerald and Sara Murphy were expatriates who hosted the likes of Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda; Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso in their French Riviera home aptly called, Villa America.  This novel tells the story of the social dynamics of this group; their relationships, temperaments, and the sexual freedom inspired by the era.

Here, we find Gerald Murphy come to terms with his own, while Sara Murphy became the magnetic north of all the male compass within their circle.  Set in the 20s, the world we’re introduced to was that of luxury, dinner parties, picnics,  and extra marital affairs. And in Gerald Murphy’s case, an affair with a gay man. The Murphys were what you can consider as the centre of the universe for all the parties involve. They’re drawn to their wealth, their kindness, and influential clout.

For all intents and purposes, Villa America is a semi-fictional account of their lives based on a number of books written by the remaining Murphys. It is a lovely rendering of the relationship that blossomed between Gerald and Sara. We also see the heartbreaks this couple suffered. They lost children; friendships were severed, and in Gerald’s case, a broken heart through a difficult decision he had to make. We also see them lose their wealth as most of Americans did during the Depression.

Typically a fan of epistolary method of writing, but I didn’t enjoy the last bits of this book. I wanted to read more, and sadly, the letters were not sufficient enough. You’ll see some brilliant people in a different light. Zelda Fitzgerald was painted as a spoiled, needy wife, and Scott, an ugly drunk. Hemingway was as everything you’ve come to know about him. He likes women, but he doesn’t love them. Villa America is such a great read for fans of the era. It’s luxurious, lovely, and at times, heartbreaking.  

GOODREADS SUMMARY | Little, Brown and Company | August 4, 2015 | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


  • I have to be in the right mood for reads where I have to check unfamiliar words or research the locations and the characters, especially because English is not my mother tongue. First time I hear about this book and author, but your review makes me wanna take the risk. 🙂

  • I feel like this book leans to be more written in the classic and literary kind of way, which I can appreciate. The cover is gorgeous and the publisher it comes from makes me very hopeful because I do generally like their books. I like the sound of this one!

    Oh, and I finally subscribed by email and added you to the blogs I follow list. I have no idea why that took so long >.>

  • Can a book be “dapper”? Because the way you talk about this book, it sounds like it would be “dapper”. It’s definitely outside my comfort zone, but I totally want to read it. While sipping on a mint julep! No idea if they taste good, but I recall it being the preferred beverage in the Great Gatsby…

    Is it an epistolary novel entirely? Or are there just a handful of letters throughout?

  • Jazmen

    You said the magic words, luxurious, and sometimes heartbreaking. I have to check this one out. I never heard of it before today, but that’s not like i haven’t heard of a trillion other books!

  • Sounds like a really luxurious and hedonistic book. I actually own the classic, but I haven’t read it yet (it looks pretty on my shelf though).

  • I research stuff from books all the time, so I can totally see myself spending a week on this book.

  • Fabulous review, and glad you liked it! Not really my cup of tea, but it does sound interesting!

  • Bec

    I’m super lazy so I don’t know if I’d get the full experience out of this book, but I’m glad you enjoyed it overal!

  • Hmm, out of my comfort zone with the hf type feeling and written in letters

  • Ooh, this sounds rather interesting – I’m all for reading outside of my comfort zone! The 20s were such a fascinating time.

  • Awesome review Joy 😀 Not heard of this one; but it looks pretty 😀 So glad you liked it a lot sweet girl. <3 Stunning review, as always. I adore seeing your thoughts about books 🙂 And this one seems all kinds of interesting. Not for me, but yeah ;p

  • Melliane

    Oh it’s so interesting to have a story set during this period. I haven’t read a lot of them but I’m curious! It sounds really good!

  • How the Fitzgeralds are represented in this book is very consistent with most fictional biographies I’ve read too, not to mention the tortured soul that is Hemingway.

    I love books like this though. Have you read The Chaperone? It’s nothing like this, but I think it’s something you might enjoy.

  • kindlemom1

    This does sound like a really fun and interesting read! Sorry the last bit wasn’t quite as good as the rest though, it is a bummer when that happens but at least you liked this overall.

  • Jenny @ Supernatural Snark

    Oooo this sounds like such a great read for my mother in law, she’ll be all over this Joy! Can’t wait to pass along the recommendation. I love a book that has me walking away after learning a few things I didn’t know before:)

  • This sounds fascinating, Joy. It seems to be very engaging too. I feel like I haven’t visited this time period in a long time, but I’ll keep this one in mind.
    Great review!

  • ChristinaBookAddict

    Awesome review! I have been dying to read this one. I love this time period and studied the “Lost Generation” in college….so fascinating! I am glad that overall you enjoyed this book.

  • Sure, could be a good read 🙂