Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 426 pages
Villa America is the fictional story of Sarah and Gerald Murphy, two rich and important Americans who played a key role in the development of FItzgerald's work, who even devoted Tender Is the Night to them.
Even though I've delved into Fitzgerald and his work, I wasn't very familiar with Sarah and Gerald Murphy and was excited to discover their world. The first noticeable thing is Liza Klaussmann's amazing writing throughout the whole story. The plot takes place over thirty years and jumps between Gerald and Sarah's voice, but Klaussmann effortlessly alternates the character. Every character, sometimes others are narrators too for short periods of them, has their own distinct voice and takes you into their own world in this most natural way. This makes the book very enjoyable to read and it's so easy to connect with each and every character.
I thoroughly enjoyed both Sarah and Gerald's journey. They're believable characters, though they lived an unbelievable life. In their villa in southern France, Hemingway and Fitzgerald walk in and out while discussing the likes of Picasso. It seems like a dream now, but both Sarah and Gerald have very real issues to deal with. The main undertone of this book is the hidden homosexuality of many male characters. World War I profoundly changed men, and the way people viewed love. When you almost lost your life fighting for your country, doesn't it seem weird that you have to hide who you love? This is the thinking of many male characters, though most of them keep their homosexuality hidden well into the story. It unravels beautifully towards the end and enhancing the love story between Sarah and Gerald.
At the core of this book is the fact that Sarah and Gerald Murphy, just like Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway, were ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. They lived through their worst nightmares during World War I and are left picking up the pieces of themselves, and the world, in the time period after. Though often sees an extravagant and irresponsible generation, Villa America shows the very real struggles of these people and why their pain translates so beautifully in art.