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