Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler
Have you ever wondered how the Lost Generation seemed through the eyes of a wife of one of those famed male writers? Therese Anne Fowler apparently did, and took up Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s cause in the process. By previous male accounts, Zelda was rambunctious, opinionated, and deeply vulnerable, and Fowler’s fictional accounting of Zelda’s life does little to counter that image. What the author does do is dig deeper into the relationship between Zelda and the Sayre family, between Zelda and Scott, and between this most famous wife of that arty bunch and Hemingway, whose writing pushed this Paris crowd into the public’s consciousness.
Zelda is of Alabama aristocracy, her father a prominent Montgomery judge. She’s a pretty girl who enjoys ballet and Southern society but who is shanghaied by handsome Northerner, Scott Fitzgerald. This doesn’t sit well with the Sayres, but Zelda, as Fowler writes of her, doesn’t really care. Off the couple go to New York, where they’re married, spend Scott’s money lavishly, drink too much, have a daughter, Scottie, and end up in Europe after two of Scott’s novels are published. There they stay, drinking and fighting, both deteriorating under the effects of overabundant alcohol, Scottie shuttled from one caretaker to another. After Zelda’s long, exhausting stay in the care of European psychiatrists, the family returns to the U.S. Then more hospitalization for Zelda while Scott parks himself in Hollywood writing movie scripts.
Besides this chronicling of a troubled literary family, the author takes on another project here: depicting an emerging feminist movement in Europe and the grip male attitudes had on women, particularly the wives of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Her writing is well done for the most part, blemished only by occasionally bland dialogue – the product of lack of strong narrative support. I wondered halfway through how Fowler would handle Zelda’s mental deterioration, but that facet of Zelda’s life was managed dazzlingly well. While this book is fiction, and while much of what’s been written of the Fitzgeralds is admitted to be contradictory, this is a valuable addition to the legend of the Lost Generation.
My rating 17 of 20 stars
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