In brief: Evie wants to be a gynaecologist after at traumatic event in her home town. But this is the 1920s and women don’t even entertain thoughts of becoming doctors. However, Evie is determined to make it in New York even if it means being unconventional.
The good: The prose sings as if it were in a speakeasy or at Ziegfeld’s Follies.
The not-so-good: I’d love to have the enjoyment of reading this for the first time again.
Why I chose it: It sounded like something I’d love – thank you Hachette for the copy.
Setting: Mainly New York City
My rating: 10 out of 10
I’m a big fan of novels set in the 1920s as that era has always captivated me – the freedom to break rules and openly have fun makes for a great story. I’ve been eager to read A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald since I heard about it last year as it adds another one of my favourite themes to the mix, women in medicine. From the moment I started this brilliant novel, I was hooked. It was everything I’d built it up to be in my mind and more. In 1920’s lingo, this book is the cat’s pyjamas and the bee’s knees!
The story centres around Evie Lockhart, a young lady disenchanted with a long future of sitting around looking pretty. While her sister Viola is perfectly content to be a wife and mother, Evie wants something more. What that is, she’s not quite sure until a stroll finds her assisting an acquaintance giving birth. Evie feels so helpless in that situation that she makes it her mission to find out – and help women giving birth by becoming a gynaecologist. Evie knows it won’t be easy, as there’s only a few medical schools accepting women in the US. But there were other problems she didn’t count on – a spurned lover turning nasty and the loss of contact with her family.
Nevertheless, Evie makes a life for herself in New York City that’s happy, if unconventional. Ostracised student by day due to her sex, it’s all eyes on her at night as part of the infamous Ziegfeld’s Follies. Evie also begins a relationship with a rich banker, but she’s filled with doubts as to whether a renegade like herself will bring him down in the eyes of society. Will she give up her career for love, or vice versa?
A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald is addictive. The story moves along at a fast pace (echoing the speed of Evie’s beloved El train) as Evie’s life is so busy and full that there is always something happening. There is always something or someone waiting to trip her up, which had me really worried at times whether the evil Charles would bring her down or she would be expelled from medical school for a misdemeanour. But in between the nail biting moments, there’s so much happiness and wonder at a world where nobody young is cynical or jaded. The story feels drunk on the spirit of freedom evoked by the Bright Young Things of the 1920s. There’s delight in sparkly dresses and shoes, music and dancing. It makes me feel a little wistful…
Within this gorgeous setting, there are a number of full bodied characters keeping things moving. Evie is a delight, a flawed heroine with a talent for overthinking and caring too much for everyone but herself. It’s this and her stubbornness which stops her from being too perfect. She’s also very modern in her thoughts and actions, but knows how to toe the line (just). Now Thomas, Evie’s boyfriend, is rather perfect. He’s handsome, smart and knows to stop a problem before it gets too tricky. Friends Lil and Bea are also honest, kind and ready to help Evie out. But there are also a number of villains, mainly Charles who is just vile. Not only is he malicious, but plays way too dirty for my liking. I swear my heart beat faster worrying about Evie when he appeared on the page!
While the book has a lot of historical detail, it doesn’t feel forced or like it is showing off reference. Everything in A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald feels perfectly placed, like it’s a contemporary novel from another time. This is a book that you can’t miss in 2016 because everyone is going to be talking about!