Amy Wilkinson
August 06, 2015 AT 08:28 PM EDT

We gave it an A

A decades-spanning saga set largely against the crystal blue French Riviera, Villa America chronicles the loves and losses of Sara and Gerald Murphy— real-life expats and arts patrons perhaps best known as the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night. Fitzgerald, along with many of his Lost Generation peers (Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos among them), figures prominently, but the true stars here are the beautiful and benevolent Murphys, whose seemingly charmed marriage comes to be tested by both Gerald’s closeted sexuality—brought to the fore by a handsome pilot who befriends the couple—and a string of family tragedies. Villa America is a vivid and affecting portrait of the couple and their raucous times, as well as one of the saddest, most romantic historical novels you’ll read this year. A

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