"Villa America" by Liza Klaussmann
When Sara and Gerald Murphy opened their home in the Cap D’Antibes in the 1920’s it became a place of legend. A place where expat Americans - artists, and writers - gathered for parties, glamour, and love. The champagne flowed as did the ideas, and the Murphy’s loved the charmed life they were living.
But when a tragic accident brings a man named Owen into their lives, the Murphys find their world upended. An American aviator who fought in the Great War, Owen is a private man whose presence unsettles the Murphy’s. And as the strength of their home is put at risk, their marriage is put to the test.
Villa America, by Liza Klaussman, is a beautiful and stunning story about a golden age and the glamour of the French Riviera that became the stuff of legend. The story of the real life couple who inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is The Night, readers will instantly be drawn into this gorgeous novel.
Following in the footsteps of other novels about the stories of real-life inspirations of some of the great 20th century artists, this is a wonderful novel that drew me right in. It is a story of a world filled with vibrancy and fun, yearning and wanderlust, ideas and artistry. And yet, it is a world full of secrets, ones that expose the humanity beneath all of the glitter. Klaussman captures this perfectly, making these characters worth our adoration and sympathy at the same time.
This is a genre that is sort of hit or miss for me, as the time period is one that I haven’t really had much interest in. But this book, starting in 1898 and continuing through 1935, changed all of that for me. Klaussman’s beautiful writing and elegant descriptions made me absorb everything I could of this time and place.
One of my favourite parts of this book was the letters written between Gerald and Sara leading up to, and during, their marriage. What a lost art those letters are, the love and longing jumping off the page at the reader. The letters in this book may not all be the real ones, but that does not matter, it is the tone and the romance of them that were so lovely to me.
I can’t speak to what is truth and what is created for this book but that does not matter to me. Others may be interested in that or have intense feelings about it but for me, it was about the story, the world that is inside the pages and that all worked very well in this book. I felt it started a bit slow, setting up the story of Sara and Gerald as well as Owen, but once the book moved to the French Riviera I was fully caught up in it all. There is a large, and great, cast of characters in this book, all with their stories that both captivate and pull at your emotions.
Romance, glamour, art, and history, this is what summer reads are all about. Haven’t read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night? Neither have I, but this won’t stop you from thoroughly enjoying this book. And it will make you want to go out and read Fitzgerald right after you finish it.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Penguin Random House of Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.