The lure of The Great Gatsby pulls readers in time and time again. A mysterious, handsome man pining for his long-lost Daisy Buchanan spirals into a whirlwind of beautiful imagery and chaos amid the glow of the Roaring Twenties.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic tale has experienced a resurgence of popularity since Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation in 2013. Nearly a century after its publication, Jay Gatsby is still inspiring vintage-lovers and party-goers alike. If you’re looking for your next dip into the jazz age with flappers and alcohol-fuelled adventures, take a look at this list for some of our favorite suggestions.
1. Vile Bodies, by Evewlyn Waugh
Donned by Stephen Fry as “Britain’s Great Gatsby,” Vile Bodies takes a look at the generation of carefree 20-somethings known as The Bright Young Things. The novel follows these insatiable party animals as they pursue their next great thrill and try to keep the ugliness of reality at bay. A satire filled with laughs, Waugh’s Vile Bodies buzzes with energy and mocks the vacuous lifestyle of the social elite in 20s London and shows that beneath the frivolous veneer looms darkness and vulnerability.
2. The Beautiful and Damned, by F. Scott-Fitzgerald
If you became a fan of Fitzgerald after reading The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and Damned will certainly pique your interest. This is the author’s second published work, and many readers prefer it to Gatsby.
The Beautiful and Damned tells the story of socialite Anthony Patch and his wife Gloria Gilbert. As Anthony is the assumed heir to his grandfather’s fortune, the couple makes no effort to establish a livelihood of their own, instead descending into a life of alcoholism and partying in New York until his inheritance arrives. But all actions have their consequences… This story paints complex characters crippled by wistfulness as they float away from their moral compasses. This is a skillfully written novel with a rich and evocative style.
3. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
If you’re a fan of Fitzgerald’s rich language, Wilde’s 1890 novel offers a similar velveteen reading experience. Written 30 years before The Great Gatsby, The Picture of Dorian Gray outraged readers of 19th Century Britain who claimed it was indecent. Some even tried to have Wilde imprisoned for his writing. The tale is excellently crafted with a preface that has become famous in its own right. Wilde, like many of the Bright Young Things, adored Paris and was infamous for living a lifestyle of excess and debauchery whilst maintaining an air of sophistication.
Beginning in an artist’s studio, The Picture of Dorian Gray follows the protagonist as he deviates from the path of innocence onto one of a much more sinister nature. As the Adonis-like Dorian wades deeper into a life of hedonism and vice, he escapes all consequences for his actions whilst his painting bears the marks of the vanity of his soul.
4. This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Although many critics cited Gatsby as Fitzgerald’s finest work, his first book This Side of Paradise was considered the author’s personal best. Although exceptionally quotable, this book is a challenging and complex read containing a mixture of styles. The story focuses on student Amory Blaine as he tries to find his place in the world and form lasting emotional attachments. Upon publication, TSOP was considered to epitomise the new morality of youth, and it outraged the president of Princeton University for its negative portrayal of his students. Filled with cracked relationships, disillusionment, and narcissism, the novel captures the glow of the ’20s with the same panache as his other titles and contains many autobiographical elements.
5. Bright Young Things, by Anna Godberson
Godberson’s novel tells the tale of three girls and one summer in 1929 Manhattan. If you want to feel the energy of the roaring ’20s without the detached narrator, this is the page-turner for you. Astrid, Cordelia, and Letty move to New York to claim a space among the glittering lights. While Astrid and Letty seek fame and excitement in the speakeasies, Cordelia searches for the shadowy father she never knew. Full of excitement and glamour as well as unexpected dangers, Bright Young Things encapsulates the glow and noise of the ’20s with realistic characters full of selfish flaws and naivety. Part of an addictive series, the three girls will steal your attention as they discover the cost of their new, thrilling lifestyles.
6. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Ann Fowler
A New York Times Bestseller, Z is the compelling story of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. Finally given a platform to shine in her own right, this novel tells the tale of one of the most notable members of 1920s’ “Lost Generation.”
A fascinating and passionate woman, Zelda was the inspiration for many of the characters in her husband’s books. Thriving in the jazz age, she and F. Scott lived a wild and exciting life of celebrity that was too intense to last, and as her decadent lifestyle lost its charm, her mental health decayed in its wake. Fowler candidly depicts Zelda’s struggles and gives readers a glimpse of the vulnerable young woman behind the party-girl mask. This is an inspiring read that finally gives this enchanting woman the autonomy that she so craved during her lifetime.
7. Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was close friends with Fitzgerald, and although their writing styles differ drastically, they contain many thematic similarities. Fiesta set Hemingway on the path to become one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th Century. The plot focuses on a group of British and American expats as they drunkenly tour France and Spain. It takes place around a bullfighting scene, so if that’s something likely to churn your stomach, this book may not be for you.
This novel portrays sex in a refreshing way and is one of few stories that does not punish the female characters for enjoying liberal sex. The protagonist, Jake, is impotent after a war injury and seems to transfer his lost sexual power to his lover, Brett. Such a modern take on the power play of sex is remarkable given the decade this was written and, as a result, Fiesta delivers an intriguing narrative full of complex and modern characters.
8. The Paris Hours, by Alex George
Paris was the thriving cultural hub filled with artists after WWI in the 1920s. Alex George tells the stories of four of its inhabitants on different journeys over the course of a single day. Although strangers at the start, the narrative culminates in a shared tragic experience that binds them together. Published in May 2020, The Paris Hours has been tremendously well-received. George removes the reader’s rose-colored glasses, presenting a very different picture of the humans trying to cover up the scars left by the war. This is a page-turner that will have you wishing you were walking down the cobbled streets of Paris.
9. The Glittering Hour, by Iona Gray
If you’re after a Gatsby-style romance that will suck you in and take you on an emotional roller coaster, this is the book for you. Full of tear-jerking moments, The Glittering Hour tells the tale of a Bright Young Thing, Selina Lennox, who falls hopelessly in love with painter Lawrence Weston. The novel spans 20 years and after the flush of the flapper era has passed, Selina is forced to make a life-changing choice between desire and security. A cocktail of grief and hope, Gray’s book explores family, romance, and regret and will break your heart several times over.
10. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genevieve Valentine
If you like the 1920s vibe and want to curl up with an easy read, this may be the perfect book for you. A retelling of the 12 Princesses fairy tale set against a backdrop of speakeasies, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club reinvents this classic tale and injects modern and relatable issues into its pages.
As the oldest of 12 sisters, Jo must raise the morale of her siblings while they are locked up by their merciless father. During the night, they taste freedom in the form of dancing until their cover is blown in the midst of a raid. Pressured with immense responsibility, Jo must fight for the needs of her sisters against their father, but must also accept her own. Full of sisterly bonds and strong female characters, Valentine delivers a tale of young women fighting for the freedom to make their own choices.