Month: April 2019

Villa America – Liza Klaussmann

Title – Villa America

Author – Liza Klaussmann

Published – 2016

Genre – Historical fiction

I saw Liza Klaussmann talking about her book alongside Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott (author of Swan Song) at the Cheltenham Literary Festival last year and had to add it to my wishlist for Chirstmas (and many thanks to Mr Novel Heights for buying it for me).

Like Swan Song this is a fictional take on real events, although in this case there is more on the ‘fiction’ side. ‘Villa America’ is the name of the villa built by husband and wife Gerald and Sara Murphy, in Cap d’Antibes. Their presence heralded the fashion for spending the summer (and not just the winter) on the French Riviera and introduced sunbathing as a fashionable activity. The circles they moved in (or rather, that appear to have moved around them) included Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.

In ‘Villa America’ the author tells the story of the couple’s relationship (they married in 1915) with the bulk of the story taking place in the period between the two World Wars. To the framework of the historical records about the lives of the Murphy’s and their guests Klaussmann has fleshed out a pilot who flew in caviar for them and he (Owen) becomes the representation of Gerald’s struggles with his sexuality.

By creating the character of Owen, Klaussmann has given herself the opportunity to explore a huge ‘what if’ in the lives of the Murphys and weaves that extra dimension into their story. Told from multiple perspectives it’s the story of how the relationships shift within the marriage as Gerald develops a bond with Owen. While much of the book is a story of excess and glamour Gerald Murphy’s character is torn by the duality of his love life and as the Depression hits so very personal tragedies take their toll on the Murphys. It’s not a story with a happy ending!

Gerald became an artist during his time in France and it’s been interesting to see some of the paintings referred to in the book. Of course having read the book first I have to remind myself that the pictures existed before the author started the book and not the other way round! And Sara herself was something of a muse for Picasso.

Yet another book that sends me off in a new direction for my reading, I should add Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have based the characters of Dick and Nicole Diver on the Murphy’s) and the couple are also possibly referenced by Hemingway in The Garden of Eden. I should probably also go back to Mrs Hemingway  to see how this perspective fits with Villa America.

An enjoyable read and one ideal for reading on a hot and sunny beach.





Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award – 2019 longlist

Edit: 18 July 2019 and the winnder of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year was announced as Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh (Hachette).

A special presentation was also made to James Patterson – the winner of the tenth Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award.

I wasn’t particularly planning to keep up the series of posts I did last year for the various crime fiction awards but when the longest for this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award was published I was pleased to see that I’ve read a few of the book son the list. The full longest is:

Snap by Belinda Bauer (Transworld)

Our House by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster UK)

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh (Hachette)

Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves (Pan Macmillan)

This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Take Me In by Sabine Durrant (Hodder & Stoughton)

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)

London Rules by Mick Herron (John Murray Press)

Broken Ground by Val McDermid (Little, Brown Book Group)

The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney (HarperCollins)

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry (Canongate Books)

East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman (HarperCollins)

Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes (Simon & Schuster UK)

Salt Lane by William Shaw (Quercus)

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor (Penguin Random House)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan (Simon & Schuster UK)

Changeling by Matt Wesolowski (Orenda Books)

It’s interesting to see Snap on the list as it was on the Man Booker longlist, The Quaker took The McIlvanney Prize (Bloody Scotland’s annual prize awarded to the best Scottish Crime book of the year) and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle won the 2018 Costa First Novel Award. Alongside these winners are some of the really big names writing crime fiction at the moment. I’ve not read enough from the list to feel I can make a call on the winner, or even the shortlist, but it’s definitely a great list of crime books from the last year, if you were looking for more books for your TBR pile.

Any omissions that you would have liked to have seen included?