Brit Lit: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

 

FullSizeRender (10)Title: The Paying Guests

Author: Sarah Waters

Publisher: Virago Press

Pages: 595

The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters’ sixth and most recent novel, is set in the early 1920s and tells the story of Frances Wray, who lives with her elderly mother in a large house in the London suburb of Champion Hill. In order to bring in some extra income after the death of her brothers (in the war) and her father (from a stroke), Frances and her mother decide to take in lodgers. These “paying guests,” as they are referred to throughout the novel, turn out to be Lilian and Leonard Barber, a young couple from the so-called “clerk class.”

Now, this was my first Sarah Waters’ novel, and it’s actually her lowest-rated book on Goodreads. If you talked to a Sarah Waters fan, they would probably recommend that you start with Tipping the Velvet or Fingersmith, however I picked up a copy of The Paying Guests while I was in England (you can find my full English book haul here) last summer primarily because I’m instantly intrigued by any book that takes place in the 1920s. I can’t speak to whether or not this is the best place to start with Waters’ bibliography, however I can tell you this: I thoroughly enjoyed The Paying Guests. Continue reading “Brit Lit: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters”

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Fitzgerald Follies: Z by Therese Anne Fowler

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Title: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Author: Therese Anne Fowler

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 371

Summary (from inside flap): When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant. Before long, Zelda has fallen for him, even though no one else believes that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. When Scott sells his first novel, she optimistically boards a train to New York, to marry him and take the rest as it comes. What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald legends in their own time. In New York City, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera, they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein. Everything seems new and possible, but not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous – sometimes infamous – husband? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.

It seems that for the past couple of weeks all I’ve wanted to read is historical fiction set in the first half of the 20th century (see my review of A Touch of Stardust here), and has been sitting on my shelf since Christmas, so I decided that now was as good a time as any to pick it up. Z, as it says in the summary I’ve included above, is a historical fiction novel that follows the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, from her early years as belle of the ball in Montgomery, Alabama, to the endless parties of Lost Generation Paris alongside her rather famous husband, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. This novel is often compared to The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which many of you may know is one of my favorite books, so I was worried going into this that it wouldn’t live up to my high expectations. I am very, very happy to say that I was wrong. This book was utterly, completely, 100 percent fantastic. Continue reading “Fitzgerald Follies: Z by Therese Anne Fowler”