Jenn Reads: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler was a book club pick for the girlfriends book club I run outside

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

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.

2 thoughts on “Jenn Reads: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

  1. I’d love to know how his writing would have turned out if he hadn’t met her. Would we still have a version of Daisy Buchanan based on somebody else or would that change? We also wouldn’t have Tender is the Night. I liked this book- except for the ending. I still can’t believe that’s where the author decided to finish it and wrap everything else up in the afterword.


    • Hi Ciara,
      I’m of the mindset he would have been the same with or without Zelda. Behaviors like his were already set before Zelda, and unfortunately, their marriage was a volatile one that brought out the worst in both of them. And yes, we wouldn’t have Tender is the Night, my “favorite” of Fitzgerald’s- he would have stolen someone else’s experiences instead. I would agree- she spends so much time on the build up of their marriage and how terrible they are for each other, that the ending is definitely rushed. There is another Zelda book, aptly named, “Zelda”, which deals a lot with her mental breakdown. Enjoy!


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