May 10th is the theater release of The Great Gatsby (2013) starring Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, the Midwestern War veteran who is introduced to the lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor Jay Gatsby, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. The story takes place in 1922 in Long Island during a time of economic prosperity.
The Great Gatsby is considered a classic novel, and one you’ve no doubt already read in school at some point. If you haven’t, find a copy here.
The Roaring Twenties was known for the growth of jazz, flapper culture, and bootlegging. There are many great books that incorporate the spirit of the times. I have selected a few of those below. Click the title for a link to the record in our catalog. Happy reading!
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
“Take a dollop of Alfred Hitchcock, a dollop of Patricia Highsmith, throw in some Great Gatsby flourishes, and the result is Rindell’s debut, a pitch-black comedy about a police stenographer accused of murder in 1920s Manhattan…. A deliciously addictive, cinematically influenced page-turner, both comic and provocative.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Working as a typist for the NYC Police Department in 1923, Rose Baker documents confessions of harrowing crimes and struggles with changing gender roles while clinging to her Victorian ideals and searching for nurturing companionship before becoming obsessed with a glamorous newcomer and her world of bobbed hair, smoking and speakeasies.” -Publisher
The Chaperone by Laura Moriaty
“The New York Times bestseller and the USA Today #1 Hot Fiction Pick for the summer,The Chaperone is a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922 and the summer that would change them both.
Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s,’30s, and beyond—from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers, and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women—Laura Moriarty’sThe Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.” – Summary
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
“Dazzles the senses.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“A remarkable novel about secrets, desire, memory, passion, and possibility.
Newlywed Grace Monroe doesn’t fit anyone’s expectations of a successful 1950s London socialite, least of all her own. When she receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger, Madame Eva d’Orsey, Grace is drawn to uncover the identity of her mysterious benefactor.
Weaving through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, the story Grace uncovers is that of an extraordinary women who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Immortalized in three evocative perfumes, Eva d’Orsey’s history will transform Grace’s life forever, forcing her to choose between the woman she is expected to be and the person she really is.
The Perfume Collector explores the complex and obsessive love between muse and artist, and the tremendous power of memory and scent.” – publisher
Z: A Novel of Ella Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler
“With lyrical prose, Fowler’s Z beautifully portrays the frenzied lives of, and complicated relationship between, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald…This is a novel that will open readers’ minds to the life of an often misunderstood woman—one not easily forgotten.” —RT Book Reviews
“When beautiful, reckless, seventeen- year- old Zelda Sayre meets Lieutenant Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald at a country club dance, he isn’t rich or settled; no one knows his people; and he wants, of all things, to be a writer in New York. After Scott sells his first novel, Zelda defies her parents to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is the Jazz Age, and for Zelda and Scott the future will be grander and stranger than they could have ever imagined.” -Publisher
Martin Dressler: the tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Milhauser
“The novel is told as a fable, with prose both lush and dreamlike. The characters are intentionally rather shadowy, while the period details- of building construction, interior design, dress styles, street scenes–have a sensuality so palpable you can practically chew on them.” -The Wall Street Journal
“Young Martin Dressler begins his career as an industrious helper in his father’s cigar store. In the course of his restless young manhood, he makes a swift and eventful rise to the top, accompanied by two sisters–one a dreamlike shadow, the other a worldly business partner. As the eponymous Martin’s vision becomes bolder and bolder he walks a haunted line between fantasy and reality, madness and ambition, art and industry, a sense of doom builds piece-by-hypnotic piece until this mesmerizing journey into the heart of an American dreamer reaches its bitter-sweet conclusion.” – Summary
The Bobbed haired bandit : a true story of crime and celebrity in 1920s New York
by Stephen Duncombe
“In 1924, Celia Cooney, a newly married laundress in Brooklyn, found herself unexpectedly pregnant. The Cooneys’ $30-a-week income couldn’t support a baby. So Celia and her husband, Ed, began holding up neighborhood drugstores. In this riveting book, the authors, scholars in history and media studies (Duncombe at NYU, Mattson at SUNY-Old Westbury) reconstruct and analyze not only the crime spree but also the ensuing media frenzy. Savvy newspaper editors knew the story of a girl with a gun would sell; they christened Celia the Bobbed Hair Bandit and made her a star. According to the authors, she stood in for the era’s anxieties about changing gender roles, her bob a symbol of liberated women. Suddenly, any gal with a bob was seen as a potential threat-even Zelda Fitzgerald was reportedly pulled over by cops and questioned. Once Celia was finally arrested, the public learned about her grueling childhood and negligent mother. Editorialists, including progressive pundit Walter Lippmann, then held Celia up as an example of what happened to poor and abused children when society failed to intervene. Duncombe and Mattson’s fast-paced account of Cooney’s story is an absolute winner.” -Publisher’s Weekly Review
One Sunday Morning by Amy Ephron
“Short, light period women’s fiction with itty-bitty chapters and clever twists is Ephron’s specialty (A Cup of Tea; White Rose; etc.). This one is set in 1926 and features New York’s postdeb set, pretty jazz-age flappers with bobbed hair who are either just about to be married or looking hard for a suitable husband at all the smart parties. When Lizzie Carswell is seen walking out of the Gramercy Park Hotel Sunday morning after a big dance at the Waldorf, still in her evening clothes and with another girl’s fiance, it takes no time at all for the scandalized buzz to reach every speakeasy and society gathering in town. That very night Lizzie is snubbed at the opera by absolutely everyone except kindhearted Mary Nell. A corpse turns up is it the guilty fiance, unable to face his future? That little mystery is quickly solved. Mary meets a handsome world traveler who might just be Mr. Right. And then some of the girls whirl off to Europe Paris, Nice, Monte Carlo with predictably unpredictable romantic results. Don’t expect The Great Gatsby (the fashionable new novel that Mary is reading aboard The Paris as she steams off to Paris); expect, instead, a quick, delightful little excursion.” – Publisher’s Weekly Review
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
“On New Year’s Eve 1937, at a jazz bar in NewYork’s Greenwich Village, Katey and Eve are charmed by the handsome and successful Tinker Grey. The three become fast friends and spend early 1938 exploring the town together, until a car accident permanently injures Eve. Feeling guilty, Tinker, the driver, takes care of Eve and unsuccessfully tries to love her. Despite the presence and initial impact of Tinker and Eve, though, this first novel is about Katey’s 1938. Eve moves on, and Tinker fades, but Katey, the narrator, stays to challenge the NewYork bourgeois unwaveringly with her acerbic wit, capturing the attention of several doting men. She quits her job as a typist and pursues a career as editor of a respected, if risqué, society magazine. And Katey does it without a handout (she thinks).” – Library Journal
For something a little different:
The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
“Pulitzer Prize–winning science journalist Blum (Ghost Hunters ) makes chemistry come alive in her enthralling account of two forensic pioneers in early 20th-century New York. Blum follows the often unglamorous but monumentally important careers of Dr. Charles Norris, Manhattan’s first trained chief medical examiner, and Alexander Gettler, its first toxicologist. Moving chronologically from Norris’s appointment in 1918 through his death in 1936, Blum cleverly divides her narrative by poison, providing not only a puzzling case for each noxious substance but the ingenious methods devised by the medical examiner’s office to detect them. Before the advent of forensic toxicology, which made it possible for the first time to identify poisons in corpses, Gettler learned the telltale signs of everything from cyanide (it leaves a corrosive trail in the digestive system) to the bright pink flush that signals carbon monoxide poisoning. In a particularly illuminating section, Blum examines the dangers of bootleg liquor (commonly known as wood, or methyl, alcohol) produced during Prohibition. With the pacing and rich characterization of a first-rate suspense novelist, Blum makes science accessible and fascinating.” – Publisher’s Weekly