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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lucky Lindy, Babe Ruth and All That Jazz

Do you ever check out a book only to return it, unread, because you just have too many books piled up at home? This happens to me more than I care to admit. Some of these books drop off my list and are never given a second thought. Other books, however, keep whispering to me even after they’re long gone from the pile. This happened recently to me with Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927. When I finally got to Bryson’s wandering, spectacle-strewn stroll through the roaring twenties, I realized why this book stayed on my radar. Bryson depicts the characters and events of a decade that has always seemed just a little bit larger than life. He gives you the full story of Lucky Lindy’s famous flight, prohibition, Babe Ruth and the first talkie. But he also covers less familiar events like the Sacco-Vanzetti trial and the sensational Sash Weight Murder – a relatively unknown case today, portrayed in the classic Hollywood movie Double Indemnity.

Hemingway and Fitzgerald first immortalized this notable decade in fiction, but so many authors have followed their lead. So, give one of these more recent works a try. Then read Bryson’s book and decide for yourself whether fact really is stranger than fiction.

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin. Charles Lindbergh didn’t just fly across the Atlantic in 1927. He also swept young Anne Murrow off her feet and into marriage. Benjamin tells their troubled story from Murrow’s perspective.

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. Best-selling author Lehane weaves many of the personalities from Bryson’s book, including Babe Ruth, into his family saga featuring anarchists, prohibition, race relations and the 1919 Boston policeman’s strike.
Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Okay, this book is set in 1920s London, not America.  But the themes are familiar – a sensational murder, a shocking love affair and individuals swept up in a quickly-changing world.

The Girls at theKingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. This retelling of a classic fable casts the 12 princesses who can’t stop dancing as 1920s flappers in New York.
-Rebecca Wolff, CE

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