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’s New York Times bestseller brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.
But Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, narrated in Zelda’s imagined first person voice, offers a depth that I haven’t found in other books about her…and them.
I could sense her emotions, her desires, and the sadness that lingered whenever she felt overlooked or tossed aside. I felt rage at the injustice of Scott taking credit for her writings when, at times, his own failed to materialize. His rationalizations might have made sense if he had been more productive, but the excuse that his name on her work would make it more legitimate seemed like his ego talking.
Of course, in the beginning, they were the Golden Couple…romantic, gorgeous, and living a lavish lifestyle. Then they were gallivanting all over Europe, partying with the artistic set, and for a while it seemed as if nothing could stop them.
Based on the true story of their lives, we know there will be no happy ending. But I loved reading about their journey along the way, especially hers. I believe that the era in which Scott and Zelda lived defined much of the path for Zelda, with mental health professionals determining that wellness for a woman meant being a “good wife,” subject to her husband’s needs. An impossible role for a woman like Zelda, in my opinion. A 5 star read.***