Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Author: Therese Ann Fowler
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2013
My Source: Louisville Free Public Library

I decided to read this book after watching and enjoying the pilot of "Z; The Beginning of Everything" on Amazon Prime. At this time only the pilot is available, but the rest of the series is coming out soon.

As the title states this is a fictional account of the life of Zelda (Sayre) Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story begins in Montgomery, Alabama in 1918 just before Zelda's 18th birthday. She is a popular carefree southern belle who often rebels against her traditional parents. Scott is a northerner, an army officer, and a man with dreams of becoming a writer. Zelda and Scott fall in love despite their differences and her parents' disapproval. They marry in New York City and Zelda's world is transformed.

Scott's first novel, This Side of Paradise, is a huge success and life is grand for the couple. They meet other writers and artists of the Jazz Age and attend all of the most exclusive parties. They get caught up in the scene, spending lots of money and drinking to excess.

How good life was! There was always an excuse to host a party or attend one. Every month, we got word that Paradise was going back to press for another five thousand copies. Scot wrote and sold three new stories. He befriended every actor, artist, writer, dancer, and bootlegger we came into contact with, and subsequently our house on weekends grew full of strange and lively and, yes, intoxicated people, but we almost always had a lovely time. 

Reading this book was like being transported back in time to the roaring 20's. I could clearly picture the fancy clothes and forbidden cocktails. I knew nothing about the truths and rumors surrounding this famous couple, but as I was reading I couldn't help thinking that life was just a little too good for them and I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is in Paris where that seems to start to happen.

At first their life is similar to the one they lead in NYC, socializing with famous writers and artists, including Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway. Then things slowly change and the couple's marriage suffers. The author implies that this is due to several reasons: Scott's close relationship with Hemingway (who does not like Zelda), Scott's alcohol abuse and controlling nature, and Zelda's mental illness. The book portrays Zelda as a victim, and some biographers and scholars believe this to be true, but there are just as many who believe that Scott was the victim.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book both because of the lavish lifestyle portrayed and because of the complex relationship that developed between the characters. Scott and Zelda were so overjoyed and hopeful at the beginning, that witnessing their demise was heartbreaking.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 high fives