Title: Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sarah Murphy: A Lost Generation Love Story
Author: Amanda Vaill
Review: After I wrote a couple of posts for Book Riot with nonfiction selections inspired by The Great Gatsby, one of my blog readers suggested I read Everybody Was So Young. (This is the lovely and surprising book interaction I mentioned in a post for Book Blogger Appreciation Week). I was so excited about the recommendation that I immediately went home and ordered the book online. When it arrived, I started it the same day. I’m so glad to tell you that it was excellent and a surprising book I would never have found otherwise.
Artist Gerald Murphy and his wife, Sara, were icons of expatriate life in the 1920s. They mentored or befriended artists like Picasso and Dorothy Parker and even served as the inspiration for Nicole and Dick Diver in F.Scott Fitzgerald’s book Tender is the Night. But their lives weren’t without difficulty — it took them until relatively late in life (for the 1920s) to find each other and their family was plagued by illness, but throughout they constantly strove to invent a life for themselves that was both enchanting and different from the lives they were expected to lead.
Everybody Was So Young is an excellent biography. Amanda Vaill digs deeply into Gerald and Sarah’s lives, but doesn’t rely on simple answers or traditional interpretations of their actions. Certainly, there’s no way to tell if Vaill’s conclusions about Gerald and Sarah — his struggle with his sexuality or her alleged affairs, for example — are correct, but they felt true to me. Vaill also incorporates literary and artistic criticism into her book, analyzing what some of the art that both Gerald and Sarah left behind can tell us.
But even more than the biographical aspect, I loved reading a book that offered a portrait of the sort of boozy, artsy, enchanted life these two people led and the artists’ community they cultivated. You can get some of that in fiction from this time, but this book felt somehow more convincing and engaging to me. Everybody Was So Young was an absorbing read from beginning to end.
Parts of this post originally appeared on Book Riot – Riot Round-Up: the Best Books We Read in September.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!