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”

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”

Classic Hollywood Lit: A Touch of Stardust

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Title: A Touch of Stardust

Author: Kate Alcott

Publisher: Anchor Books

Pages: 290

Summary (from back of book): Julie Crawford left Fort Wayne, Indiana, with dreams of being a Hollywood screenwriter. Unfortunately, her new life is off to a rocky start. When she is fired by the notoriously demanding director of Gone with the Wind, she’s lucky to be rescued by Carole Lombard, whose scandalous affair with the still-married Clark Gable is just heating up. As Carole’s assistant, Julie suddenly has a front-row seat to two of the world’s greatest love affairs. And while Rhett and Scarlett – and Lombard and Gable – make movie history, Julie is caught up in a whirlwind of outsized personalities and overheated behind-the-scenes drama…not to mention a budding romance of her own.

‘Movies teach us how to do that,’ Carole had confided. ‘Create a set, sprinkle a touch of stardust. Who gives a shit if it’s real? Just make it good enough to believe.’

Like many other readers, one of my goals for 2016 was to finally read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, a sheer beast of a book and Civil War historical epic. Though it took me over a month to read, I did complete this goal and finished GWTW back in March. I was utterly captivated by the story, the writing, and the world of Rhett and Scarlett, and ever since March I have been hungrily searching for everything GWTW-related that I can get my hands on. So, you can well imagine my delight when I stumbled across A Touch of Stardust, a historical fiction novel that takes place on the set of GWTW, sitting on a table at my local Barnes and Noble. This book promised glamour, romance, and an insider’s look at one of my favorite movies: my hopes were very, very high. Continue reading “Classic Hollywood Lit: A Touch of Stardust”

A Wilde Time: Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories

oscar wilde**Note: I wrote the majority of this review back in December of 2015, right after finishing this book. Life got in the way, however, and I never got around to finishing this post, so it has sat in my drafts until now. I want to publish this post because it seems a waste not to, as I had 90% of the review already written, however since it was long ago that I read this collection I have forgotten a majority of the last story, “The Portrait of Mr. W.H.” For that reason, and because I do not think that I could accurately review that story now, it is not included in this review. All of the other stories in this collection are individually reviewed, however, and I hope you enjoy this rather delayed review of an excellent collection. 🙂

After finishing A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (which you can read my thoughts on here), I immediately went out and bought some more Hemingway, or, to be more exact, I went online and ordered The Sun Also Rises. I knew I would want to pick that up as soon as it came, so while I was waiting for it to arrive I wanted something short to read. Since I have never read any of Oscar Wilde’s short stories I thought that now would be the perfect time to start! Continue reading “A Wilde Time: Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories”