Gerald and Sara Murphy & Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night: Background information when reading Villa America

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Villa America

A Novel

by Liza Klaussmann

Villa America by Liza Klaussmann X
Villa America by Liza Klaussmann
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2015, 432 pages
    Jun 2016, 432 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Gerald and Sara Murphy & Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night

This article relates to Villa America

Print Review

Gerald and Sara Murphy are widely believed to be the inspiration for Dick and Nicole Diver, the central couple in F. Scott Fitzgerald's last novel, Tender Is the Night (1934), not just for their physical resemblance, but also for their habit of hosting lavish parties at Cap d'Antibes in the south of France. Indeed, Fitzgerald dedicated the novel "To Sara and Gerald, Many Fêtes."

In Tender is the Night, the Divers, like the Murphys, have a villa in the South of France to which they invite their many friends, mostly Americans. Dick, infatuated with actress Rosemary Hoyt, embarks on an affair, later complicated by a murder from which Dick must help Rosemary distance herself. Flashbacks reveal that Dick met his wife Nicole when, as a young psychiatrist, he treated Nicole for neuroses and childhood trauma. Friends were uneasy about the power dynamic between them, but they overcame all objections and moved to Europe, where Dick became a partner in a Swiss sanatorium. However, alcoholism and adultery lead to the failure of their marriage.

The Murphys were not entirely pleased with their portrayal in the novel. Sara, especially, was offended that Fitzgerald had taken advantage of their friendship for his own ends. Certainly, it is difficult to locate them in the above storyline. In an interview with The Independent, Liza Klaussmann, author of Villa America, argues that "Tender is the Night doesn't have a great deal of [the Murphys'] actual personalities. The drunken benders and affairs with young girls [have] more of Fitzgerald than Gerald Murphy. One of the things you do see in Tender is the Night is Sara's generous spirit." The novel sparked tensions between Fitzgerald and the Murphys, but they chose not to abandon him as he succumbed to alcoholism and depression.

The Murphys (left) and the Hemingways Interestingly, Ernest Hemingway's posthumous novel The Garden of Eden, also about an American couple living on the French Riviera and driven apart by a new love interest, likewise seems to be based on the Murphys. He mocked them directly in A Moveable Feast (also, conveniently, posthumous), in which he grouped them with the "understanding rich."

Readers interested in learning more about the Murphys and deciding for themselves how accurate their portrayal is in Tender Is the Night and Villa America have many excellent biographical sources to choose from. In particular, Klaussmann recommends Living Well Is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins, Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill, Letters from the Lost Generation (edited by Linda Patterson Miller) and Sara & Gerald: Villa America and After by Honoria Murphy Donnelly, the Murphys' oldest child.

Gerald earned a modicum of fame for the Cubist paintings he produced between 1921 and 1929. Eight of his 14 paintings survive; of these, some hang in the Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City's Museum of Modern Art, and the Dallas Museum.

Picture of the Murphys, Pauline Pfeiffer and the Hemingways in Spain, 1926, from Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection

Filed under Books and Authors

Article by Rebecca Foster

This "beyond the book article" relates to Villa America. It originally ran in August 2015 and has been updated for the June 2016 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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