Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

“… while I bathed, while I tried but failed to sleep, I considered how I might become more like the women I respected and admired. Surrounded as I was by ambitious, accomplished women, I couldn’t ignore the little voice in my head that said maybe I was supposed to shed halfway, and do something significant. Contribute something. Accomplish something. Choose. Be.” 

~ Therese Anne Fowler,
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald


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.

 (Synopsis via website of Therese Anne Fowler)

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My Thoughts:

Having read some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books and listening to my mother and her sisters talk about the “jazz age,” images and words predisposed me to a strong desire to read about Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. Growing up in the deep South, certain actions were expected by a young woman. Zelda was having none of this before she met Scott and had even less of it after meeting him.

Zelda was full of fun, somewhat brazen, unconventional, and felt little fear at the prospect of defying the norm in Montgomery, Alabama. I read Zelda’s story and wish in 1965, at Zelda’s age, I possessed the courage to be different, to step outside the box, to follow my dreams. No matter how reckless they seemed to others.

And this is what Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald did. At times, their marriage seemed vitriolic. Yet the two could not seem to survive alone. Dependent, co-dependent, they mirrored the marriages and lives of many creative geniuses — Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Dashielle Hammett and others.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip through the lives of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Although they moved about the country and world, every scene instills a bit of Zelda’s Southern heritage — languorous movements, hints of mint julep in the air, the softening of words — and her determination to be her own woman retaining that Southern heritage while fighting against it.

Fowler has done her research well, especially into the years abroad and the persons met and socialized with during those years. She also is specific in her descriptions of Zelda’s dark times with respect to treatments in mode during the 1920-30s.

Definitely, we’ll never know who brought down whom, but I can assure you when you turn the last page of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, you will be begging for more.

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My Recommendation: 

Lovers of historical novels will find Theresa Anne Fowler’s work on the Fitzgeralds’ story one worth reading. But don’t start it if you have some work to do, because your work will quickly be forgotten. This is a page-turner replete with images of glitzy, fringed flappers, gin mills, and drugstore cowboys.

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Meet the Author:

FowlerTherese Anne Fowler (pronounced ta-reece) is the third child and only daughter of a couple who raised their children in Milan, Illinois. An avowed tomboy, Therese thwarted her grandmother’s determined attempts to dress her in frills–and, to further her point, insisted on playing baseball despite her town having a perfectly good girls’ softball league. Thanks to the implementation of Title IX legislation and her father’s willingness to fight on her behalf, Therese became one of the first girls in the U.S. to play Little League baseball.

Her passion for baseball was exceeded only by her love of books. A reader since age four, she often abused her library privileges by keeping favorite books out just a little too long. When domestic troubles led to unpleasant upheaval during her adolescence, the Rock Island Public Library became her refuge. With no grounding in Literature per se, she made no distinction between the classics and modern fiction. Little Women was as valued as The Dead Zone. A story’s ability to transport her, affect her, was the only relevant matter. She would eventually earn a BA in sociology/cultural anthropology and then an MFA in creative writing. Though her reading preferences have become more particular over time, her standard for what makes a good read remains unchanged.

Therese is currently a visiting professor at North Carolina State University, where she teaches Advanced Fiction Writing.

(Image by Tom Clark; bio from Fowler’s website)

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Publication Date: April 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Novel, Fiction
Hardcover: 375 pp
ISBN: 9781250028655
Source: Personal library


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10 thoughts on “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

  1. […] Found Between the Covers […]


  2. […] Found Between the Covers shared her thoughts on Z: A Novel of Zelda Fizgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. Sherrey admires Zelda’s courage to be unconventional, and she thoroughly enjoyed this well […]


  3. Wendy @ Wensend January 31, 2014 at 7:31 am Reply

    I definitely want to read this one. I read The Great Gatsby last year and I’ve read This Side of Paradise by Fitzgerald for Jazz Age January, but I want to know more!


    • Sherrey Meyer January 31, 2014 at 7:53 pm Reply

      Something about the Fitzgeralds draws you in, doesn’t it? I can’t wait to read more as well, and some books I want to reread. This Side of Paradise is a favorite.


  4. Rebecca Scaglione - Love at First Book January 27, 2014 at 1:24 pm Reply

    I’m excited to read more about Zelda. I read The Paris Wife, which is about Hadley & Ernest Hemingway, then The Sun Also Rises & A Moveable Feast, and all 3 mention the Fitzgeralds! I am dying to learn more about them – especially Zelda!

    Thank you for linking to this week’s Spread the Love Linky Party! I also pinned your post! 😀


    • Sherrey Meyer January 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm Reply

      I have to read The Paris Wife! The entire time I was reading A Moveable Feast I longed to know more about Hadley as a woman, an individual. And I need to go back and read The Sun Also Rises as a mature (very mature!) adult and see if my feelings have changed. But the Fitzgeralds! What a couple — co-dependent, yet selfish, spoiled but for different reasons — they were people I just had to love/hate through the entire book. Need to read more indeed! Why don’t you do a Fitzgerald month next time? Knowing you you’ve already got something planned, and I have a book to finish!!!


  5. Catherine January 26, 2014 at 11:20 am Reply

    Great review and I agree about the co-dependency. I was startled to learn that Scott had no problem lifting material from Zelda’s diaries- that made me sad because I do feel he stifled her creative abilities, as if there could only be one successful writer in their marriage.


    • Sherrey Meyer January 26, 2014 at 8:12 pm Reply

      Hi Catherine, I believe it was a sign of the times — what would a woman know to do with what could be found in her diary? So, if she wouldn’t know what to do, it was OK for him to take it and use it. A very disgusting thought process! Note Jennine’s comment above about changing allegiance.


  6. Jennine G. January 24, 2014 at 10:08 pm Reply

    Totally agree – loved this book! I liked that we really get some insight on Zelda for once. She’s not just the crazy wife you usually get I’m stories. I kinda switched allegiances from Scott to Zelda!


    • Sherrey Meyer January 26, 2014 at 8:10 pm Reply

      Interesting, Jennine — I too have somewhat switched my allegiance to Zelda! 🙂


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