Book Review | A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald | Natasha Lester

“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 the roaring twenties 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 for Evelyn Lockhart, who is forbidden from pursuing her passion to become one of the first female doctors. Chasing her dream will mean turning her back on her family: her competitive sister, Viola; her conservative parents; and the childhood best friend she is expected to marry, Charlie.

In a desperate attempt to support herself through Columbia University's medical school, Evie auditions for the infamous late-night Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. But if she gets the part, 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 . . .

Captivating, romantic and tragic, A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD follows a young woman ahead of her time amid the fragile hearts and glamour of Jazz Age New York.”

Some of the world’s most famous women (movie stars, celebrities, writers and intellectuals) were born out of the upheaval of the women’s rights movement in the 1920’s – women such as Coco Chanel, Zelda Fitzgerald, Marlene Dietrich, Edith Wharton, Amelia Earhart and Florence Sabin. In A Kiss for Mr Fitzgerald, author Natasha Lester introduces us to yet another – Evelyn Lockhart who is about to prove that she’s not your average 1920’s young woman.

Although only a figment of Natasha’s imagination, Evelyn Lockhart rises up to capture the reader’s attention and convey the struggles with which the women of that time were faced and, in doing so, gives us one of the most powerful female characters I’ve ever had the chance to “meet” – so much so that I found myself living vicariously through her struggles, finding bits and pieces of myself in her character along the way.

Evie’s passion for obstetrics is fuelled after she witnesses a woman die during childbirth under some rather strange circumstances. Unfortunately for Evie, times have not yet changed and her world is still very much Victorian and one in which women are expected to merely marry, make a home and have children.

In her pursuit for freedom, it is her tenacity and ability to let nobody (including her family) steer her from the course that she has set for herself that stands her in good stead as she zealously challenges traditional values, flouting convention by abandoning the constraints of her era and becoming an object of popular adoration by joining the illustrious Ziegfield Follies while trying to finance her university studies and win the heart of one man.

It is in this quest to become an independent and liberated woman that she unexpectedly finds both a friend and an ally within the wealthy Whitman family.

I do believe I’ve found one of my favourite books for 2016 so far!

Through the incredibly well developed character of Evie, with whom we are able to both empathise and sympathise, Natasha Lester offers the reader a fascinating insight into life during the Roaring Twenties, from the hazy and sultry atmosphere of Manhattan’s speakeasies to the vibrancy of the follies on Broadway and on to the politics of the time where women had just been given the right to vote but were still deemed unsuitable for obtaining a degree in medicine, particularly gynaecology.

It’s a novel that far exceeded my expectations and it’s truly difficult to describe how well Natasha captures her setting and characters without actually reading the book. Through her deft and assured writing and impeccable eye for detail, all of her characters practically leap off the page to draw her audience into the vivid world that inhabits the elegant cover of this novel, never resorting to the clichés that are so often found amongst the genre.

Touching on the jazz age, prohibition and the many economic and social changes taking place during the period, Natasha’s third novel is historically detailed and nuanced, capturing the world of speakeasies, glamour, exuberance and glitz of the 1920’s with beauty and elegance.

I wish to thank Hachette Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Natasha Lester worked as a marketing executive for ten years, including stints at cosmetic company L'Oreal, managing the Maybelline brand, before returning to university to study creative writing.

She completed a Master of Creative Arts as well as her first novel, What Is Left Over, After, which won the T.A.G. Hungerford Award for Fiction.

Her second novel, If I Should Lose You, was published by Fremantle Press.

The Age newspaper described Natasha as "a remarkable Australian talent", and her work has appeared in The Review of Australian Fiction and Overland, and the anthologies Australian Love Stories, The Kid on the Karaoke Stage and Purple Prose.

Title:  A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald
Publication Date: 26 April 2016
Publisher:  Hachette Australia
RRP:  Paperback - $29.99


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