Everybody Was So Young

Vaill, Amanda. Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy – a Lost Generation Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Reason read: F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in September. His novel Tender is the Night is based on Gerald and Sara Murphy.

I am trying to wrap my brain around just how special Sara and Gerald Murphy’s reputation was between post World War I and pre World War II. Just the who’s who name dropping when describing their inner circle alone is spectacular. Even at an early age, both Sara and Gerald hobnobbed with notables (Sara was warned not to wear a long scarf while flying with the Wright brothers and Gerald was schoolmates with Dorothy (Rothschild) Parker). The Murphys vacation spot of choice was a rocky beach in the south of France. It was easy to rub elbows with the big names for Paris was a hotbed for creativity during the 1920s. Artists, photographers, writers, poets and fashionistas alike flocked to the city center and soon made their way to the French Riviera. Gerald and Sara knew how to entertain all ages. Their children were treated to elaborate parties including a scavenger hunt that took them by sailboat across the Mediterranean. It was a charmed life…until it wasn’t. Interspersed with the good times are episodes of tragedy – illnesses, death, Fitzgerald’s drinking and subsequent estrangements from longtime friends. But, it was probably the tragic deaths of their two sons, Baoth and Patrick that were the most devastating and marked the end of an era for Sara and Gerald.

Pet peeve about Vaill’s book: many of the photographs Vaill refers to are not included in her book. The Fitzgeralds frolicking in the ocean; Sara with pearl looping down her bare back. Even the Pamploma photograph, which Vaill describes in great detail is not the same one included in the book. Hadley does not look at Gerald and Pauline does not look at her lap. Instead, all are looking straight into the camera. This might be why Pearl recommends reading Everybody was so Young with Living Well is the Best Revenge because Living Well includes more photographs and a section on Gerald’s art.

As an aside, I cannot help but think of my paternal grandparents while reading Everybody Was So Young. Their wealth and society was a mirror image of Gerald and Sara’s. To top it off, Sara’s family was well rooted on Long Island, just a short distance from where my Grandmother lived for many, many years in Quogue.

Favorite trivia: Gerald named his boat after a Louis Armstrong album, “The Weatherbird.” When having the boat built he had a copy of the record sealed in its hull. How cool is that?

Author fact: Everybody Was So Young is Amanda Vaill’s first book.

Book trivia: Everybody Was So Young includes two sections of 84 interesting photographs.

Nancy said: Nancy suggested reading Everybody Was So Young at the same time as Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Living Well is the Best Revenge. by Calvin Tomkins.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the interesting chapter called “Companion Reads” (p 62).

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