For today’s post I want to do a countdown of my top five Jazz Age novels! I thought this post would go well in conjunction with yesterday’s Femme Fatale Friday featuring Zelda Fitzgerald. I have always adored classic literature, as I am sure regular readers of this blog will likely have gathered. The Jazz Age, defined by F. Scott Fitzgerald as lasting from May Day 1919 (with the end of WWI, after the Treaty of Versailles signed on June 28) to October 29, 1929 (with the stock market crash), was an age of excess and nihilism. Everyone (at least young people, under thirty) wanted to live in the moment, and party hard! Without further ado I give you my five favorite Jazz Age Novels.
Number 5: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
~This is the sole Hemingway novel to appear on this list, and was published in 1926. It is his first novel, and featured the struggles of American Ex-Patriots living in Europe after having been wounded (both mentally and physically) during The Great War. It featured an amazing leading female character, the sultry flapper Lady Brett Ashley!
Number 4: Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
~This novel is by the great British novelist, and social critic, Evelyn Waugh. He was famous for having married a woman also named Evelyn, and in their circle of Bright Young Things they were known as “He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn.” This novel is loosely biographical, and is iconic for its scathing portrayal of entitled characters (who Waugh himself was one of). It was first published in 1930, so I know it is a bit of a stretch. However it is my list, and this book is too juicy not to include!
Number 3: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
~This hilarious novel was first published in 1925. Anita Loos book was made into a stage play, a stage musical, and finally the film musical in 1953 that cemented Marilyn Monroe as a star for her portrayal of Lorelei Lee! The musical was updated to the modern era (1950s), but Lorelei Lee retained her flapper girl personality! The book also had an equally funny sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, that would also become a film. Loos would go on to be an important screen writer in Hollywood during the 1930s, even taking the writing job on Red-Headed Woman (in 1932)from Fitzgerald himself when he could not make it funny enough!
Number 2: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
~I am sure some of you were waiting for this one to appear! I list it as number two because it is iconic, and I love the story. This short novel tells the tale of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. I doubt I have to give too much information here, as most of us have read it (and if you haven’t, I do recommend it).
Number 1: The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
~This is my favorite of all Fitzgerald’s novels! I know listing this above Gatsby may be shocking, but it is my opinion that this is superior. The novel follows the story of Anthony Patch and Gloria Gilbert. They are a couple that is highly based on Scott and Zelda (and if you read the book and then read about their lives this is clear). Zelda even reviewed this book for the New York Tribune with this tongue in cheek comment “It seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and, also, scraps of letters which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald — I believe that is how he spells his name — seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.” I do love that this novel featured much of Zelda in it, and I personally wish she would be credited as co-writer (since in many ways she was)!
~I hope you have enjoyed my countdown of favorite Jazz Age novels. I kept it to novels that were published in the Jazz Age, or just after, and featured characters that lived the life we think of as representative of that era! This is why other great books do not appear here (Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, etc). Let me know your thoughts on my choices in the comments below!
- Bright Young Things by Alison Maloney