I’ve just put down a book titled the same as this post, which adds to a running list of books I’ve read recently recounting life in the magical 1920s Paris.
Living Well is the Best Revenge - first published in 1971 - describes the early lives of American expats Gerald and Sara Murphy. They intentionally moved to France when disenchanted with the States (with three young children!), and exchanged a safe, predictable life for an unconventional life they created abroad. Aside from Gerald Murphy’s brief but remarkable painting career and an impressive group of friends, they are known for inventing the French Riviera summer season back when tourists split after Spring and sunbathing was rare (no kidding) and when they bought and fixed up a home they called Villa America in Cap d’Antibes.
No one did Living Well quite like the Murphys. They had a love and passion for life and lived it to its fullest.
Villa America became the gathering epicenter for their friends - the who’s who of the 1920s arts and letters expat scene like Picasso, Hemingway and Fitzgerald - and it was said no one did Living Well quite like the hospitable, sociable, creative, privileged Murphys. Gerald believed only the invented part of their life (creation of their own happiness, I presume) held beauty until uncontrollable life events later stepped in and ”blundered, scarred and destroyed.”
Hostess with the Mostess: Perfecting the Art of Living
The Murphys lived the good life - creating a happy, pleasurable life surrounded by family, friends, dinner parties, beauty, fresh flowers and beach picnics including a daily mid-morning glass of sherry - even though they had less dinero than many of their expat friends. Their hospitality, adventurous spirit, and love for life and the arts, music and books drew people to them. They were generous and supportive (and social connectors) to their friends, many who were emerging artists and writers. They loved their family. They pursued their passions. Described as rebels, they cared little what others thought of them or of their lifestyle.
Travel, a great education in living well.
In my experience, living abroad inspires one to live well. For me that means a number of things. Like good food. Family. Togetherness. Creating a beautiful home – no matter where and what size – that reflects your life and experiences. Enjoyment of the present, even the mundane events. Creating your own happiness and a life you choose to live – not what others want or is expected. A passion for life and adventure. Curiosity in places, people, and the arts. Appreciation of beauty. From another time, Gerald and Sara Murphy are still an inspirational couple and remind us through this book that living well is the best revenge.
How has travel or living abroad influenced you to Live Well ?