Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Released March, 2013
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
The story of Zelda and author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s relationship as told from Zelda’s fictional perspective.
I absolutely loved this book, was sad when I finished it, and couldn’t wait to write about it. I know there is Gatsby everywhere right now with the movie coming out, but this book really lives up to the hype. The start is a little slow, but don’t let it deter you because the story picks up steam quickly.
Z is similar to The Paris Wife by Paula McLain in that it’s a fictional take from a famous author’s wife’s perspective about a real period of time in their lives. And, Z even covers the same time period as The Paris Wife, but from a different perspective (Zelda’s vs. Hadley Hemingway’s), so it’s especially interesting if you’ve already read The Paris Wife.
The story of Zelda and Scott is a tragic love story carried out amid fame (if not fortune), glitter, clinking champagne glasses, and the literary intelligentsia of the time (Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, etc). And, you truly would never guess this novel takes place during Prohibition based on the amount of alcohol flowing through it…which made for an exciting, but heartbreaking story.
Zelda’s voice is distinctive through Fowler’s writing and I just loved the way she phrases things – the language feels similar to The Great Gatsby‘s.
This book is understandably pro-Zelda. She is portrayed as exciting, modern, misunderstood, and somewhat victimized while Scott comes across as slimy, pretentious, arrogant, petty, jealous, childish, and obsessed with rich people (despite never becoming one himself due to his profligate spending). But, they seem to love each other as much as possible through all that.
It was interesting how Scott was portrayed as the first author to truly embrace the modern concept of marketing and P.R. for his writing – he seemed to view his marriage to Zelda as a tool to add mystique to his writing and encouraged her to act like certain characters in his books and stories.
Z also provides great fodder for discussion about women retaining their own identities in marriage and motherhood…whether through a career or something else. This strikes me as a very modern topic for the 1920’s and is obviously still relevant today. Scott wants Zelda, increasingly against her will, to live a life of hair appointments, parties, and painting lessons that enhances his own image and then puts her down for it later when comparing her “series of low-key amusements” to the importance of his “risky existence” of baring his soul through his writing.
Reading Z made me want to re-read The Great Gatsby, as well as Scott’s first two novels (This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned), both of which were initially more successful than Gatsby. Z is a fun, light read for summer, but is also chock full of history and substance – a perfect fit for my Summer Reading List and a fantastic Book Club selection.
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The Paris Wife by Paula McLain