Monday, August 5, 2013

REVIEW: Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Synopsis:  I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we’re ruined, Look closer…and you’ll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true. We have never been what we seemed.

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?

My Thoughts: Judging by previous reviews I've seen of this book people either really love it or they did not care for it at all.  Although I did enjoy The Great Gatsby, I knew nothing about the man behind the book or his wife and I had no idea that socially they were the rock stars of their generation so this book was a good introduction into the wild and hectic lifestyle led by Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. We meet Zelda as an eccentric young woman whose boldness shocks those in her community.  Zelda does whatever it enters her mind to do and says whatever pops into her head.  She is a free spirit bent on finding the next good time to be had.  She finds a kindred spirit in young Scott Fitzgerald, an Army Lieutenant with grand plans to become famous by writing the next great American novel.  He succeeds and whisks Zelda off to live a glamorous life but it is one in which they are always teetering on the edge.  Both are intent on keeping up their lavish lifestyles whether they can afford it or not.

I loved following the ups and downs of Zelda and Scott's stormy and passionate relationship.  The glitz of New York and exotic European locations throughout the story were interesting as were the relationships with the contrary group that made up their circle-Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and most notably Ernest Hemingway who causes much strife in Zelda and Scott's marriage.  Most of all what drew me so deeply into this book was Zelda herself and her struggles to be recognized in her own right-as a writer, painter, dancer-and the battle to be her own person, something which was vehemently opposed by her husband.  I did think the latter part of Zelda's life dealing with her mental illness felt a little rushed but other than this I really enjoyed this book.  I read this on a car ride back to Michigan from New York and my husband could not get me to put it down so he could turn on the radio.  I can't speak one way or another on whether this was an accurate portrayal of Zelda's life as I knew nothing about her going in but Fowler's version was most assuredly an entertaining one. I will undoubtedly be reading more about Zelda in the future-fascinating lady!

I received this book from the publisher via Shelf Awareness.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.


  1. I read this earlier ion the year and really enjoyed it. Yes, Zelda is a fascinating lady. I love reading about her although I'm not sure I would have liked her much in "real life'!

  2. I enjoyed this book also. If it wasn't accurate, it felt like it could have been.