Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler was a book club pick for the girlfriends book club I run outside
of the library.
I’m probably going to get a LOT of comments on this, but am I the only one who thinks The Great Gatsby is *ok*? Perhaps my unfavorable opinion of this classic was marred by the fact that I listened to it, and it was perhaps the first classic I listened to. The only thing I got out of Gatsby – there was a cool car chase at the end.
My opinion of F. Scott Fitzgerald was never favorable either, and this book certainly did nothing to bump his position. We meet Z, Zelda Sayre, when she is 18 and ready for some excitement in her life. The year is 1918, the war is just about to end, and Zelda is graduating from high school. Zelda is unsure how her life is going to progress; she doesn’t want to follow a traditional Southern woman’s path in getting married right away, having kids, and staying home. Her life changes at her dance recital, when out in the audience she sees a striking young army soldier. After the recital he introduces himself as F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Zelda’s life is forever changed.
After some starts and stumbles, Scott and Zelda are married in NYC at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and they begin their tumultuous life together. Those early years should have been an indication to Zelda how the rest of her life would go.
The Fitzgeralds were a true celebrity couple. They were followed by journalists, photographers, their every move documented. They went to some pretty crazy parties, knew some really famous people (Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, just to name a few), and never had any money. They moved constantly across the globe, leading a gypsy lifestyle so common for people like the Fitzgeralds.
I would gander that Zelda’s mental illness, now diagnosed as bipolar, was most definitely caused in part by her domineering, abusive, smothering, adultering and alcoholic husband. F. Scott would never win any prizes for “Husband of the Year” or “Father of the Year”. He never supported Zelda the way he should have, jealous that her success may surpass his own. Never fully given the opportunity to shine in her own right, Zelda suffered internally and was institutionalized in her 30’s.
I read most of this book while on jury duty. It was a quick read, with great descriptions, dialogue, and characters. I really hated F. Scott. And I really felt bad for Zelda. Imagine what her life would have been like without F. Scott.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.