Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Provided Synopsis: 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.
Review: Now seems as good of a time as ever to read a story about the Fitzgeralds. Before I read this fictional account of Zelda’s tumultuous marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald, I only knew what popular culture has remembered about Zelda — meaning that she suffered with mental illness. What I did not know, however, was what an awful husband Scott was to her. His obsession with being a legacy to literature along with his alcohol abuse was a danger to himself, his marriage, and his relationships with those who surrounded him. He plagiarized his wife’s writing to place within his own. He was unstable, and this story adds fuel to the fire that his instability is what led to Zelda’s troubles.
Since this novel is written in a first-person narrative, however, it lends much more of a sympathetic ear to Zelda. I’m not sure which aspects were truth or which were fiction, but I believe that Zelda needed a novel like this. She was always in a constant struggle to be respected and seen as more than a wife. She had ambitions to dance, write, paint, and draw — and she was good at all of these things, only to be held back by a husband that did not want to be dimmed by the light of his wife. This story gave her the voice she wanted to be heard in life.
Earnest followers of the Fitzgeralds might find this novel to be too light of an account of their life together, and I can understand why. Throughout my reading I constantly felt as if there was much more depth to Zelda’s character that could have been dived into to make this story more profound. As a catalyst to encourage readers to seek and learn more about Zelda and Scott this novel succeeds, since this reader is now interested in learning more.