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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Book Review: Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2013
Genre: Biographical Fiction

First Lines

The prologue begins with a letter from Z to Scott in 1940, which I won't include here, and continues with
If I could fit myself into this mail slot, here, I'd follow my letter all the way to Hollywood, all the way to Scott, right up to the door of our next future. We have always had a next one, after all, and there's no good reason we shouldn't start this one now. If only people could travel as easily as words. Wouldn't that be something? If only we could be so easily revised.
Goodreads Description
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 is Zelda, 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.

My Review

Very well written and researched, Z tells the story of Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of the celebrated author of 'The Great Gatsby,' F. Scott Fitzgerald. Part of the literary and well-off communities, the pair lived the high life in America and Europe, partying the days and nights away in an ever-flowing river of booze and letting the money flow through their fingers like water. There was no such thing as 'economy,' and they were often in debt but wouldn't change their ways. Zelda was full of life and ambition, but was held back by Scott's insecurity and his desire for a 'proper' wife (i.e. one who would worship him as well as stay home and look after domestic and family matters). While they loved one another and in some ways were devoted, their marriage was troubled and Z experienced emotional/mental distress. It is hard to imagine what life was like for their daughter, Scottie.

In many ways a depressing read, it certainly provides an eye-opener into the life and times of two talented and artistic individuals during the early part of the 20th century. At times I did find it hard to keep track of some of the lesser characters.

If you enjoyed 'The Paris Wife' (Paula McLain), this title will interest to you as well.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


  1. I am currently reading: Max Perkins, Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg. Perkins had a long relationship with the Fitzgeralds, mostly with Scott, but Scribners also published Zelda. From Perkins point of view, both Fitzgeralds had numerous issues and he felt that Zelda was hindering Scott. He advanced monies to Scott frequently with the hope that eventually, he would be able to publish more of his novels. I think when I finish this book, I'll look for a biography of Zelda.

    1. Interesting, Diane. Z, the novel, addresses the issue of whether Zelda hindered Scott and suggests that he was certainly capable of keeping *her* from becoming all she might have been. I'm sure a lot has to do with perspective. It may well have worked both ways.


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