Novel set in the South of France (“the Murphys invented Summer on the Riviera”)
- Book: Villa America
- Location: Antibes
- Author: Liza Klaussmann
When you go to the South of France, what do you take to read? Well, a book set there, naturally! And that is just what I did!
The book opens at the turn of the 20th Century on the East Coast of America, exploring the family dynamics of the Murphys and the Wiborgs. A union of their offspring results in the marriage of Gerald and Sara, who despite adversity, fight to be together. Gerald has never been the shining star for his father and turns to art as a way of finding fulfilment, whilst also struggling with his sexual identity. The Murphys essentially “invented Summer on the Riviera”
Elsewhere in America, Owen Chambers has honed his flying skills and is enlisted into being a pilot in WW1, a traumatic event stays with him.
As life moves on, the Murphys pop up on the Riviera, where they are like a beacon attracting the fashionable crowd to party and while away their days – the Hemingways, the Fitzgeralds, Cole Porter, Picasso… a social scene of richly diverse people. Often fuelled by alcohol the intensity of relationships bubble over, often with dramatic consequences. The author captures the period and the stifling social mêlée with acuity, the hedonism and drama of the times feel both seductive and at times out of control. Owen also turns up amongst the social elite in the South of France and is the one fictional character who plays an instrumental part in the plot.
Much is written and reported about the bigger players, many novels are devoted to Hemingway et al. In this instance the author has chosen to focus a little more on this lesser known couple, almost the backbone of the set, who owned the wonderful Villa America where much of the partying and activity takes place.
I was intrigued to know more about the building, but there is very little to be gleaned from the internet about the fate of the building. On TripAdvisor this little piece pops up about 112 Chemin des Mougins:
Just to report back in case there are any other Murphy aficionados looking for info on this in the future, we made it to Villa America which is still there. Unfortunately there is a massive metal door at the beginning of the driveway and a very tall hedge/fence so it is really only possible to see the white rooftop of Villa America Jemimagold, from Houston Texas on TripAdvisor However, it seems that the original building that the Murphys inhabited was pulled down and the current dilapidated house is not original (and the author picks up the story below)
A story that has been referenced through the eyes of the Hemingways and other notables, so this feels like a fresh take through the eyes of Gerald and Sara Murphy and is redolent of the age in which it is set.
On our blog we have an author QA: