A big thank you to those who came to our All That Jazz Booktalk last Tuesday evening. For those who couldn’t make it, here are the books we shared with attendees. All were written in, set in, or somehow related to the 1920s. Links go to the Minuteman Catalog so you can check on availability. Enjoy!
Benjamin, Melanie. The Aviator’s Wife. “The aviator’s wife” is Anne Morrow Lindbergh, married to the aviator Charles Lindbergh. Charles’ expectations of Anne are high, and she rises to meet them, sometimes without considering whether her loyalty to him is at odds with her own beliefs. The Lindberghs were the celebrities of their time, and it is fascinating to view a period of American history (1920s-1960s) from Anne’s point of view.
Blum, Deborah. The Poisoner’s Handbook. This is a fascinating nonfiction book about how two men – chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler – transformed the field of “medical jurisprudence” into what we now know and respect as the field of forensic medicine. From 1915-1935, a period including Prohibition, Norris and Gettler made great advances in solving mysterious deaths that were caused by various poisons – including various forms of alcohol.
Bray, Libba. The Diviners. Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.” When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.
Fields, Jenny. The Age of Desire. Fiction and fact blend in this novel about a few years of Edith Wharton’s life. In middle age, Edith falls for journalist Morton Fullerton, to the dismay of her governess-turned-literary-secretary Anna Bahlmann. The narration alternates between these two women as they travel, sometimes together and sometimes apart, between the U.S. and Europe. Their stories are equally compelling, the writing is gorgeous, and some of Wharton’s own letters are included.
Godbersen, Anna. Bright Young Things. In the spring of 1929, 18-year-old Cordelia Grey and her stage-struck friend Letty Larkspur run away from their small Ohio town to seek their fortunes in New York City and soon find themselves drawn into situations and relationships, particularly with the dazzling Astrid Donal, that change their lives forever.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-WWI generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates.
Honeyman, Kay. Fire Horse Girl. Jade Moon is a Fire Horse-the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, wilful and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams and wants only to find a way to make them come true. Then a young man named Sterling Promise comes to their village to offer Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise’s smooth manners couldn’t be more different from her own impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn’t want to admit many Chinese and when they are detained at Angel Island she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path…one as brave and dangerous as only a Fire Horse girl can imagine.
Ivey, Eowyn. The Snow Child. Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
Larkin, Jillian. Vixen. Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?
McLain, Paula. The Paris Wife. Hadley Hemingway is the “Paris wife” of the title; Ernest Heminway’s first wife (of four), she is with him before he makes it as a writer and as his career begins to take off. In their life together in Paris, they meet other expatriate American luminaries of the time, such as Gertrude Stein and the Fitzgeralds. Hadley is not an artist herself, so she observes some aspects of their life as an outsider, and her story is told beautifully.
Myers, Walter Dean. Harlem Summer. It’s 1925 and Mark Purvis is a 16-yr-old with a summer to kill. He’d rather jam with his jazz band (they need the practice), but is urged by his parents to get a job. As an assistant at The Crisis, a magazine for the “new Negro,” Mark rubs shoulders with Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. He’s invited to a party at Alfred Knopf’s place. He’s making money, but not enough, and when piano player Fats Waller entices him and his buddies to make some fast cash, Mark finds himself crossing the gangster Dutch Schultz.
Preston, Caroline. Gatsby’s Girl. Just as Jay Gatsby was haunted by Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fizgerald was haunted by his own great first love — a Chicago socialite named Ginevra. In this richly imagined and ambitious novel, Preston deftly evokes the entire sweep of Ginevra’s life — from her first meeting with Scott to the second act of her sometimes charmed, sometimes troubled life.
Rideout, Tanis. Above All Things. In 1924 George Mallory departs on his third expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Left behind in Cambridge, George’s young wife, Ruth, along with the rest of a war-ravaged England, anticipates news they hope will reclaim some of the empire’s faded glory. Through alternating narratives, what emerges is a beautifully rendered story of love torn apart by obsession and the need for redemption.
Specht, Robert. Tisha: the Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness. The author tells the story as told to him of Anne Hobbs, a woman who went to Alaska in the 1920’s to teach, but who had trouble due to her kindness to the Indians there.
Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence. Wharton’s famous novel takes place during the “Golden Age” of New York, a time when the upper class dreaded scandal. Newland Archer is engaged to the lovely May Welland, but when May’s cousin Ellen Olenska comes to town, Archer falls for her. Will he do what society dictates, or follow his own heart?
Wharton, Edith. Twilight Sleep. In this satire, the family of Pauline Manford is falling apart as she drifts from one meaningless social engagement to another, following a string of dubious spiritual healers who she employs to help her forget her troubles.