By Liza Klaussmann
Little Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316211369, August 2015, 432pp.
The Short of It:
Based on the real-life inspiration of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.
The Rest of It:
I have yet to read Tender is the Night but apparently, Gerald and Sara Murphy’s relationship was the basis of the novel. And let me tell you, they are a very interesting couple to read about. Villa America, is a fictionalized account of their marriage and their close friendship with Scott Fitzgerald and is wife, Zelda.
Sara and Gerald meet, marry and throw a lot of parties. Their lives start off glamorous. They purchase Villa America, located on the French Riviera. There, they rub elbows with Hemingway and other notable guests. It’s all very amusing and theatrical and dare I say it, frivolous to a degree.
But things get complicated. Gerald and Sara’s relationship is more like brother and sister than husband and wife and when Gerald falls for someone else, Sara isn’t quite sure how to address it. It’s a different time and the underlying message is that she’s okay with it, but only if she can save face while allowing it. See what I mean? It’s a little scandalous and complicated so for me, the last half of the book was the strongest half. The first half was entirely too much set-up, if you ask me.
The ending was very strange and I’m not even sure I am interpreting it correctly so I will save my thoughts for those who want to chat with me privately about it.
Overall, it has a touch of the glitz and glam we’ve come to expect from the Fitzgeralds. They are always interesting to read about. But I feel as if there was so much more to Gerald and Sara. Much more and in this novel, I felt like the author barely scratched the surface. For this reason, the book was just “okay” for me. Not great.
Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.
22 thoughts on “Review: Villa America”
Hmmm… okay, but not great was how the author’s previous book (Tigers in Red Weather) struck me, so I’m not particularly inclined to give this a try. Might have been compelled to read it anyway if you’d raved, but think I can safely pass.
Now that you mention the other book, I am a little surprised because this one seemed to have a “first book” feel to it. I don’t want to completely write it off because I did enjoy the second half, but the ending puzzled me.
I may not pick this up since it was just okay but am wondering if it would make a good book club choice since the ending was strange.
The ending was weird and tossed in. Of course, I seem to be missing the meaning behind it and no one has discussed it with me as of yet but I’m not sure it would be good for discussion. There are aspects of the story that would be worthy of a discussion but I think a group would be better off just reading about the Murphy’s in biography form.
Hmmm. Have you read the Paris Wife? I really liked that one and this sounds similar, but your rating of “just okay” makes me hesitate…
I had Tigers in Red Weather around for review for ages and somehow never got to it! I was intrigued by this one when I first heard of it, but haven’t sought it out, so good to hear your thoughts. Can’t discuss the ending with you, though!
No one has discussed the ending with me as of yet. I sure hope they do because I read it twice and even thought there was something wrong with my Kindle version!
That is a fabulous cover
Oh, wow, Ti! I’m never short of inspiration on picking my next read after visiting your blog… You sure know how to pick them 🙂
I felt the same way!
I have this one, but the reviews really have been mixed, so I may wait a bit longer to try this one.
Since the title is the name of their home, I thought there’d be more about the home itself and the setting. It was kind of just an afterthought.
I always feel there’s “more to it” when I read novels about real people. A good biography usually does so much more!
It is a strange book. The first half was just so different from the second half.
I read a bio of this couple quite a few years ago and remember enjoying it. These fictionalized treatments of literary (however tangentially in this case) figures never seem to work out for me. I take the bait over and over again yet can’t think of one that I enjoyed. I think you just saved hours of my reading time, Ti! “Okay” is not good enough. 🙂
There have been quite a lot of books about the Fitzgeralds or based on them in some way. I’m not sure this is for me given the lengthy set up.
I’m mildly intrigued. Probably would be more if I had read Tender is the Night. I’ll skip for now. I recently read a book that promised much more Zelda than I got.
There isn’t too much Zelda in this one either.
Well, shoot. I still have this one to read, but maybe I won’t rush to read it.
I haven’t read this novel, but I’ve always wanted to read Tender Is the Night. Now your discussion makes me even more curious.
One thing this book did was really make me want to read Tender is the Night. I have it. Maybe I will read it over Christmas break.
The story sounds fascinating, especially in the weird relationship situation, but I’d probably find a good biography discussing their relationship in detail more compelling. It’s just a matter of finding a good biography – or digging out the juicy parts from within.