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)
* * *
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.
* * *
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.
* * *
Participating in Books Speak Volumes‘
* * *
Meet the Author:
Therese 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)
* * *
DETAILS ABOUT THE BOOK | DISCLAIMER:
Publication Date: April 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Novel, Fiction
Hardcover: 375 pp
Source: Personal library