REVIEW: Natasha Lester’s ‘A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald’
A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald
If you loved THE PARIS WIFE and Z: A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD, you will devour this deliciously evocative love story of a small-town girl with big ambitions in 1920s New York.
It’s 1922 in the Manhattan of gin, jazz and prosperity. Women wear makeup and hitched hemlines – and enjoy a new freedom to vote and work. Not so Evelyn Lockhart, forbidden from pursuing her passion: to become one of the first female doctors.
Chasing her dream will mean turning her back on the only life she knows: her competitive sister, Viola; her conservative parents; and the childhood best friend she is expected to marry, Charlie.
And if Evie does fight Columbia University’s medical school for acceptance, how will she support herself? So when there’s a casting call for the infamous late-night Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway, will Evie find the nerve to audition? And if she does, what will it mean for her fledgling relationship with Upper East Side banker Thomas Whitman, a man Evie thinks she could fall in love with, if only she lived a life less scandalous?
What AusRom Today thought:
We meet Evelyn (Evie) Lockhart at a time in her life where her parents are coaxing her (not too subtlety) into a marriage with the extremely wealthy and well-to-do boy-next-door, Charlie Whitman. Despite having enjoyed a childhood friendship, it becomes apparent that as adults their mannerisms and approach to life couldn’t be more at odds. At a time where the stakes are increasing for Charlie, he speaks keenly of his desire to wed Evie. Evie should be delighted by the prospect, after all marrying into a higher social class was the achievement of a lifetime for women of the era (arguably it still is), however Evie’s goals reach far higher: she wants to become one of the first female doctors. Charlie is dismissive of her goals, as are her parents who forbid her from pursuing such interests. And this is where we see Evie shine. It’s around this time that Evie realises Charlie is a man she could never love nor marry, his brother Thomas on the other hand…
Together with Charlie’s mother and his older brother Thomas, Evie is thrust into 1920’s Manhattan. The roaring 20’s. It’s gin and jazz, hitched hemlines and high fashion, it’s a time of revolutionary social change albeit still a patriarchal society.
Evie’s conservative upbringing is quickly shed and we see her immediately thrive in this new and tantalisingly exciting environment. Evie forges ahead with her medical degree, with no familial support which leads her to a path that is not easy nor glamourous and in doing so we see the dogged determination of her character.
Put simply, Evie was born into a time that she’d already outgrown. Her ideals and aspirations clearly on display throughout the entire story. She is a tenacious, forward-thinking, unapologetic in her determination yet still kind and compassionate. Hands down Evie is one of the most formidable female characters you could hope to read.
The love connection between Evie and Thomas is a delightful one and certainly very well-executed and delivered. However the overtone of Evie’s story is her determination to create a happily-ever-after of her own making.
Told evocatively through the lens of masterful imagery, Lester has delivered, what I believe, will be the stand-out novel of 2016.
– J’aimee Brooker, AusRom Today
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