Romance Novels of the 1920s
As the 1920s roared on, readers turned to romance novels for escapism. Christie’s first novel introduced her moustachioed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and became a bestselling sensation.
Rosalie Stanton loves parties and ‘fixing people’. When she finds a long lost love letter in a house she is redecorating she sets out to find its owner.
The Enchanted April (1919)
Featuring the nuanced character development of four women who defy societal expectations, Elizabeth von Arnim’s narrative explores our universal yearning for freedom, connection and fulfillment. Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot, cowed by their husbands, and Lady Caroline Dester, a widow weighed down by her past, band together after reading an advertisement for a castle in Italy.
The spell of the castle and Italy works its magic on these dissimilar Englishwomen, transforming their lives. This charming, slyly comic novel was a huge hit upon its first publication.
The Jeeves and Wooster Collection (1920)
The lovable Jeeves and his hapless master Bertie Wooster are the stars of these comic short stories and novels by P. G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse continued writing up until his last completed novel, Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, in 1974.
The scheming Edwardian valet Jeeves solves the sit-com style mishaps of Bertie, his goofball friends, and his eccentric extended family. He extricates Bertie from unwanted engagements, outwits his foes, and deals with his rambunctious nephews. These books are light and cheerful.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1921)
In her debut novel, Agatha Christie introduced her world-famous detective Hercule Poirot. It was written during the first year of the First World War and published by John Lane’s US company in October 1920 and The Bodley Head in Britain in January 1921.
The story opens with a murder at the fashionable village of Styles St Mary, Essex. Poirot is called in to investigate and, using his skills of deduction based on a few seemingly random clues, solves the case.
The Diamond Diaries (1924)
Lady Daphne Hallworth’s family resents her plans to open a home for unwed mothers. But she is determined to see her dream through, even if it means marrying a man her family scorns.
Stein, a literary maven who held legendary salons, reveals the secrets of two wealthy families in this reworking of the traditional family saga novel. It’s an in-depth look at relationships that might provoke more debate today than it did back then.
Miss Brill (1925)
Miss Brill is an English teacher who has limited social contact with the outside world. She spends her Sunday afternoons in the park and enjoys observing people. She is able to eavesdrop on their conversations without them knowing. She finds this fascinating and even enjoyable. She compared it to watching a play.
One day, a young couple sits down next to her. The man is rude and insults her. She is left feeling rejected and alone. The sense of connection she had formed is shattered.
The Paris Wife (1926)
A sumptuous and compulsively readable tale of seduction, scandal and deception that brings the Roaring Twenties to life. Evelyn Waugh’s masterpiece remains a timeless and classic.
Paula McLain’s deeply evocative portrait of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley is based on the memoirs Hemingway left behind. Set mostly in Paris during the first six years of their marriage, it paints a picture of a marriage that is both tragic and enduring. It captures both the beauty and the brutality of Jazz Age Europe.
The Secret Garden (1927)
Orphaned Mary Lennox is sent to live with her reclusive uncle on his Yorkshire estate. When she hears cries from a garden she has never seen, her interaction with it spurs a transformation.
The Secret Garden’s climax may be less dramatic than Wuthering Heights, but its themes of self-absorption and the healing power of nature remain just as compelling. Devoted fans of the original novel will notice many differences, however. This adaptation, from Jack Thorne, is not without its issues.
The Great Gatsby (1926)
Fitzgerald’s third novel, The Great Gatsby is a tragic love story that takes place in Jazz Age New York. The book is a commentary on the destructiveness of wealth and social class distinctions.
As he gazes at her, Gatsby tries to separate Daisy’s silvery presence from the futile poverty she came from. He believes that if he can unite himself to her, he will liberate both herself and himself. He is, however, blinded by his dream and by the potency that money supposedly holds.