As we enter another decade of the same name, we can’t help but feel a sense of sweet nostalgia for a time when it seemed the world was on the cusp of fun, games and great change. This was before the Great Depression set in, before the swinging sixties, and before the Wall Street crash. The 1920s (despite the swell of prohibition) seemed an era where innocence was set to be lost. There were the parties, the gin cocktails, the jazz that seeped well into the night, and the extraordinary fashion. Here are our five favorite novels that seem to capture the fleeting fancies of the 1920s…
The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
The novel that launched a thousand speculative dreams, The Great Gatsby is one of the most famous works of literature to capture the glitz, glamor, and lost wonder that makes the 1920’s such a romanticized decade. The story follows the wild summer of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his doomed love for Daisy Buchanan. There’s endless accolades about gin, extravagant parties, mesmerizing mansions, jazz all night long, languid cigarettes, and an unspoken weight that hangs over everything. In short, it’s the novel that defined a whole era.
Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
Clarissa Dalloway is supposed preoccupied with planning for her party. In atypical 1920’s fashion she is expected to play the perfect hostess, but what about when the mind wanders into musing territory? What about when all that stuff we normally let drift through our minds snags on the heart and reminds us that perhaps – something here isn’t quite right. Mrs Dalloway is an extraordinary stream of consciousness novel, an exquisite look at the role of women in society, an unflinching gaze at mental illness, and an astute look at society, marriage and all the expectations in-between. Virginia Woolf does it again.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Anita Loos
While many of us may be more familiar with the silver screen version showcasing the iconic Marilyn Monroe, the tongue in cheek tale started its life between the pages of a novel by Anita Loos. Our Lorelei loves some diamonds, and as it’s the 1920’s – there seems to be plenty of time for everyone’s favorite showgirl to be swanning around Europe with all the champagne and shiny things one could ever wish for. Sure, it's flighty and whimsical but hey it was the 20’s.
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemmingway
Soak up a different side to the 1920’s – one that isn’t built on prickling under the covers prohibition or summer daydreams, but one that calls on blood, masculinity, and booze-fueled shores. Follow Hemmingway as he writes with a quiet fervor about Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley as they discover Paris’s late-night parties and the sharp brutality of bullfighting in Spain in this most famed and beloved novel.
The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
Illicit behavior, high society, and scandals in upper-class New York put The Age of Innocence on the literary map. Although it's set in the 1870s, the novel captures all the moods that were permeating through the probation era. Newland Archer is our protagonist who must pick between his beloved fiancé or the highly alluring fallen woman – the Countess Olenska.
Which 1920’s novels are your favorite? Share your beloved book lists from this era and lets crack open the gin for a reading party.