Book Review: Villa America

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Back in 2012 I read Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann. It easily became one of my most recommended reads when anyone asked for recommendations (and even when they didn’t!).  It was a fantastic debut and had this mysterious and creepy undertone running throughout it. I just loved it. Ever since, I’ve been checking over and over again to see when and if Klaussmann was going to release another one. I waited, I checked, I grew anxious and then came the news! Yay! A new Liza Klaussmann called Villa America was being released. It was definitely one of the most highly anticipated books I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this year.

Now, I will say that the topic of the novel gave me some pause. I simply have not had any success at all, At All, with all of these novels popping up like popcorn about the Fitzgerald’s, Hemingway, Hemingway’s wives, etc. I read some of them. I panned all those that I did read. Therefore, I was so very worried when I first opened the pages of Villa America. Sigh, here was going to be yet another fictional story featuring cast members from the “Lost Generation”. But this one was about Sara and Gerald Murphy and their dazzling party lifestyle in the Antibes where they built their Villa America.

But very quickly, oh so very quickly, any fear or trepidation I had was laid to rest. I read about 11 pages and was all in. Klaussmann writes like a dream. What a fascinating couple! I want to read more about them. (I was directed to try this one, which I will want to reach for soon: Everybody was so Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy.) Villa America is about the love affair between Gerald Murphy and Sara Wiborg. It is about their childhoods, their meeting, their relationship and marriage. It was just lovely and thoroughly enjoyable to read about. The story opens with the childhood of Gerald Murphy. Oh my it was so sad, but so beautifully written. I truly fell in love with Gerald Murphy and I think Klaussmann did a wonderful job of describing him, his devotion and love to Sara, to his children and she was used a very graceful and sympathetic pen when writing to the doubts he had (and others had as well) about his sexuality. In turn she also painted a fantastic picture of Sara – and also of her love and devotion to Gerald and their children. This couple had a very loving relationship and one that held great respect for each other. It shone through in Klaussmann’s writing.

Yes, it heavily features Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and their silly, childish antics and behaviour, as well as Hemingway and all of his macho and misogynistic glory. However, they were not the focus of the story. If anything, I think the association the Murphy’s had with them contributed to their downfall and unhappiness later in life. But again, rather than being a tired and often told story, the author illustrated it all brilliantly.

I only have great things to say about my reading experience with Villa America. And now, again, I will be anxiously and incessantly checking to see when Liza Klaussmann releases another novel. She’s pretty much confirmed with Villa America, that I will now read anything she writes. (And if you haven’t read Tigers in Red Weather yet – what are you waiting for?!)

Great big heaping thanks goes out to Random House Canada for sending us this now much loved copy of Villa America. 

And! I had the absolute pleasure (it was so much fun!) to read this book for the National Post’s Afterward Reading Society! What a thrill. The publication of the Afterward Reading Society’s piece on Villa America will be coming out after August 25th, so I’ll need to update this post with the information about it then.

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