Z- A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
by Therese Anne Fowler
published by St. Martin’s Press
When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.
What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.
Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who isZelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it. (from Goodreads)
The “Roaring 20’s” is seriously one of my favorite topics to read about. I did my senior thesis on this time period for my degree in History. The marriage of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda has always fascinated me. This book attempts to give us an insight into one of the most misunderstood women of the era. Zelda, while a very talented woman in her right, lived under the shadow of her famous husband.
The author begins the story in Zelda’s hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. Zelda, just 18, is a southern bell with a fiery streak. She meets Scott while he is stationed nearby, waiting to ship out and fight in W.W.I. Written in Zelda’s voice, we follow this volatile couple through their courtship, wedding, and the ensuing years. Though they are viewed as the golden couple of the Jazz Age, trouble becomes apparent. Their drinking is excessive and spending lavish. Scott lashes out at Zelda, then pulls her closer. Eventually, their relationship begins to deteriorate, but they cannot live without each other.
Ever since reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, I have been fascinated with the character of Zelda Fitzgerald. She came across in some history as the original flapper, Scott’s muse and his downfall. Hemingway clearly despised her, despite being the consummate ladies man himself. Fowler’s novel attempt to give a voice to Zelda, to show that she was not who she had been made out to be. Her portrayal of this talented, misunderstood woman, was well written and engaging. The author clearly did an amazing amount of research into the times and lives of the “Lost Generation”. I would definitely recommend this book.
“SO WE BEAT ON,
BOATS AGAINST THE CURRENT,
BORNE BACK CEASELESSLY INTO THE PAST”
-last line of The Great Gatsby, inscribed on the Fitzgeralds’ headstone
rating- 4 out of 5
Self-portrait, watercolor, probably painted in the early 1940s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)