Villa America by Liza Klaussmann is an absolute gem of a book, the kind of story that sweeps you away and makes you feel almost lost in it. The author has a real gift for creating a huge amount of empathy around her characters, something that is even more incredible given that most of the characters in this story were real people. The protagonists, Sara and Gerald Murphy, were the “glue” that held together some of the most famous people of the jazz age – Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Cole and Linda Porter and Ernest Hemingway to name just a few.
As someone who is a fan of books with happy endings I was somewhat dismayed when the book began with some very heavy foreshadowing. However I could not help but be drawn into the story almost immediately. We meet many of the characters in childhood and it is fascinating to watch them develop into the adults they become. In particular, I enjoyed watching Sara and Gerald’s relationship blossom and see them finally managing to marry despite a huge amount of objection from both sets of parents.
I felt such a connection with Sara and Gerald, two people who seek to find the beauty in a world that is changing so rapidly. The social, political and economic events that happen around them throughout their lives shift everything, impacting on them, their family and friends. Through it all, they are two people looking for the beauty in life, trying to celebrate it and enhance it despite the odds stacked against them.
It was fascinating to read a novelisation of the lives of the Murphy’s friends – the fraught, wild and obsessional relationship between Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the brilliance that bordered on madness of Ernest Hemingway and the complex love life of Picasso. The Murphys seek to create a beautiful world for their friends at Villa America, a coastal oasis of artistic genius, holding flamboyant parties and extravagant fêtes. The couple have an incredible sense of style and Klaussmann really brings this to life in the pages of the book. However, the constant through this wonderful novel is the warm, loving family that Sara and Gerald Murphy create with their three children.
It is painful to read how “the Golden Bowl” is shattered and how what seemed to be a charmed life is anything but. However, Liza Klaussmann still manages to give readers a happy ending – something I found incredibly refreshing and also something I believe the real life Sara and Gerald would have appreciated. In the end, we all want to be remembered for the joy we created and not the sorrow we endure, and in Villa America Liza Klaussmann has definitely done this for the fascinating protagonists of this wonderful story.
Don’t miss Liza Klaussmann’s engaging and delightful new book, Villa America. Whether you are a fan of historical fiction or you just love a really good read, Villa America is definitely the book for you.
Disclosure: I received a copy of Villa America for review purposes. This review is my honest, heartfelt opinion of the book.