There is a certain amount of romanticism attributed to “The Lost Generation” a term that was popularized by Ernest Hemingway and used in his novel, The Sun Also Rises. Artists like Ernest himself, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, and more make up the list of figures associated with this time period. More fascinating is that many of these writers and artists found themselves in the same social circles, and even travelled the globe and found one another as Expats in Europe. One such place where individuals convened was Villa America, a home built by Gerald and Sara Murphy in Cap D’ Antibes. Gerald had a brief success as a painter, and his wife was known for throwing lavish parties for their social circle.
There have been quite a few novels written about the Lost Generation, books about the tumultuous relationship between Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald (Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald), or about the many conflicted relationships of Ernest Hemingway (The Paris Wife, Mrs. Hemingway) many other novels exist and the appeal is intoxicating. The colorful personalities of famous literary figures and artists who were drawn together following the War and set the tone for the time with a determination to create something new and bold and honest and maybe even shock the world- What conversations they must have had at the dinner table! What must they have thought about one another! The very idea is enough to set a literature junkie’s head spinning.
Gerald and Sara Murphy were key figures during the era, of all of the characters listed above, they were the most settled and they often hosted get-togethers in their home, bringing everyone together and enjoying the excitement and novelty of the incredible combination of personalities. They are often fringe characters in the other novels, somewhat treated as necessary to the story but less than interesting. Villa America, by Liza Klaussman, delves deeper into the lives of the painter and his socialite wife who dared to make a life for themselves outside of the confines of traditional American society and create a world of creativity and thinkers around them. Sara and Gerald earned their own bit of the limelight, Gerald as a painter and Sara was rumored to be the inspiration for beautiful, charismatic characters in works by both Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and was even painted by Picasso. In fact, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “Tender is the Night” after inspiration received during his times at Villa America, and it has been said that the characters are based on his friends there and the novel, “Villa America” is written to delve deeper into the world that inspired Fitzgerald’s novel.
In short, if you love The Lost Generation as much as I do, don’t miss Villa America, by Liza Klaussman, and the audiobook by Hachette Audio is worth a listen, too.