Zelda: A Biography
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Zelda: A Biography

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  4,534 ratings  ·  281 reviews
Zelda Sayre started out as a Southern beauty, became an international wonder, and died by fire in a madhouse. With her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, she moved in a golden aura of excitement, romance, and promise. The epitome of the Jazz Age, they rode the crest of the era to its collapse and their own.

As a result of years of exhaustive research, Nancy Milford brings alive...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published November 29th 2011 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1970)
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Jeanette

Zelda, poor Zelda,
Your love for F. Scott felled ya.

A Southern belle transplanted,
You went through hell, that's granted.

But oh, those years of glory!
Your nineteen-twenties story.

The couple with the mostest,
You a reluctant hostess.

The Paris scene so sparkly,
Your mind receding darkly.

Your husband used you, wife,
To fuel his writing life.

To madness you were condemned,
Truly The Beautiful and the Damned.

Your refuge, destroyed by fire,
Became your funeral pyre.


Aimee
Feb 08, 2008 Aimee rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in mental illness, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Paris in the 20s
I almost wish I hadn't read this book, as it gave me insight into the writing method of F. Scott Fitzgerald which has left not only my opinion of him but of his work in a harsh new light. He literally drove his wife insane by stealing her life, writings and personality for his own literary ends. When she herself was published his name was included as author. When she tried to write a novel about her experience with mental illness, her threatened her publisher (who was also his publisher) with de...more
Kirk
I've resisted reviewing this one since I've been on this website because I didn't really think I could convey how weirdly central it's become to my life. First, it's a book I discovered in my mother's stack of paperbacks when I was a kid, and the later pictures of Zelda scared the B.Jesus out of me. Then when I went to college it seemed like every artsy girl I tried to date had it on their bookshelves. Flash forward another ten years and I land a job in the city where Zelda was born and where sh...more
Carol
Many years ago, I read nearly all, or maybe all of F.Scott Fitzgerald's books, and so was aware of the mentally unstable Zelda. I'd had this book on my shelves for years and just recently got around to reading it. Lest anyone feel that her madness was caused by the alcohol, FSF, fame, etc., there is abundant material about her rather idiosyncratic up-bringing and her amazing levels of self-involvement, insensitivity to others, narcissism, etc., from her early years. The alcohol consumption didn'...more
Linda Robinson
Topnotch research, well presented with anecdotes from people who knew people who knew. Got this book from the library because I had watched "Tender Is The Night" (a disturbing autobiographical movie: had F. Scott Fitzgerald no conscience?) on TCM and Robert Osborne mentioned Milford's book as the only one that covered Zelda Sayre's creativity and squashed dreams, as well as her struggle with mental and emotional mayhem. Creative coupling is mercurial: drop either partner's dreams on the floor an...more
Jasmine
Jun 05, 2008 Jasmine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Leslie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny McPhee
ZELDA: THE MADWOMAN IN THE FLAPPER DRESS My November Column at Bookslut
“Is a pen a metaphorical penis?” Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar asked in their seminal study of women writers and the literary imagination The Madwoman in the Attic (1979, reissued 2011). Their answer was a resounding, if complex, yes, resulting in our most robust and far-reaching feminist literary theory to date.

“In patriarchal Western culture,” they wrote, “the text’s author is a father, a progenitor, a procreator, an aesth...more
Barbara
Though the beginning of this book provides some strict historical information on Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the majority of it is, of necessity, a biography of her better known husband. It is a sad fact that Zelda is, essentially, an extension of him; their lives were so closely intertwined and mutually dependent that it would be impossible to look at only half of the dynamic couple.

It is difficult to get a sense of who she was in her childhood and adolescence; wild, reckless, the pampered baby of...more
Jan C
I think I read this when I was recuperating from an automobile accident and had beaucoup time on my hands.

It was very enjoyable and I think got me caught up in getting books on Fitzgerald, the Murphys, Dorothy Parker, etc., that whole crowd in other words.

She did have mental problems and if you look at her entire life, you can see them showing up here and there all along the way.

I believe she wrote one book and I have heard it questioned, either in print or interviews laterly, whether she was...more
Leslie
I never thought I'd even want to read about Zelda Fitzgerald because I read all about Hemingway first and he didn't like her and I admit that influenced my opinion of her. Then one day I read that she died in a fire in mental hospital. That piqued my interest so I bought the book and am glad to say was not disappointed. I still don't "like" Zelda, but do understand her as a person more because of this extremely detailed book. It is one of the better biographies I've ever read. F.Scott Fitzgerald...more
karen
It's hard to review "Zelda" without tying in my feelings about Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and their crazy, codependent relationship. But I can't find any fault in Nancy Milford's work, and for such a long biography to hold my interest all the way through is sort of amazing, so I'm giving it five stars.

I first learned about Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald a few years ago when I tried to read a couple of Scott Fitzgerald's books. I couldn't STAND the main characters in any of the books, and reading that t...more
Mmars
Last winter I found myself embroiled in Love and Hatred: The Troubled Marriage of Leo and Sonya Tolstoy and this winter it was the FItzgeralds. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, where to begin? Eccentricity? Incalcitrance? Control freaks? Male dominance? Female depressive reaction? Creatives with behavioral disorders?

Zelda was, beautifully, the epitome of "free spirit" in her youth. You know, everything you only dared to think about doing....Zelda fearlessly did it. Her mother never reined her in and h...more
Dawn Lennon
Engrossing, captivating, and revealing! This portrait of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald's life together is riveting. It's a love story to two co-dependents who can't stop loving each other even when they are at odds with each other.

It's a story of the all-consumed literary genius who extracts so much of his novels from the life of his wife as recorded in her journals. Yes, he steals from her life to create his own characters while weaving in his own, often dysfunctional perceptions, of intimate r...more
Joanna
"Half of our friends would tell you in all seriousness that my drinking drove Zelda mad. The other half would tell you that her madness drove me to drink." - Scott Fitzgerald

This was a very in depth biography, and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald is a fascinating and enigmatic subject for Milford to take on.

The early years of the Fitzgeralds are by far the easiest to read through, and the most fun to be immersed in, but the author renders the blow out fights and drunken routs with just as much meticulous...more
Lana
Amazing. Milford did an excellent job of portraying the Fitzgerald couple. However, her writing was not the main attraction of this book, it was Zelda's. Her letter's to Scott were steeped in metaphors and beautiful in their conveyance of so many emotions.[return]Here is one that she wrote to describe the rainy sky:[return][return]"filled with copper clouds like the after-math of cannon-fire, pre-war, civil-war clouds and I feel all empty and bored and very much in love with you, my dear one, my...more
Keith
What stands out, even more than the somewhat sad tale of Zelda the Flapper and F. Scott the Philosopher, is Milford's tenderness toward both, even in their personal excesses. Zelda's move toward madness seems to be inherited schizophrenia. The way her life unfolds may have exacerbated the disease, but it seems as if nothing could really halt its progress. F. Scott's near obsession with her as the central female character in his fiction perhaps hurt more than it helped, for it never allowed her...more
Laura
Incredible story of love, dependency, and mental illness. Zelda was an artist in her own right, and I'd like to think that with the correct diagnosis--she would have been able to stand on her own. Scott, though he loved her, put too much doubt in her. His dependence on alcohol exacerbated what was wrong with their marriage. Instead of trying to fix her, he should have been working on himself--alas the suffering artist...
Shiloh
This book haunted me when I read it as a teen. Partially, because it followed a life so charming and lively into the ravages of bad marriage and mental collapse. However, it left a lot of unanswered questions and is hardly definitive. There have been some new things written which exceed the scope of this book, but taken alone it is a powerful portrait, though tragic.
Cathy
The fun loving crazy ones, are usually just that, crazy. Makes me glad to be boring.
Ashley
They say behind every great man there is a woman well the man was F.Scott Fitzgerald
This was about the woman behind the man,

The book starts off with the telling of her roots her grandfather during the civil war era, her mother(Minnie) and finally the sixth child between Anthony Sayers and her mother Zelda(after a gypsy queen from a book her mother was reading) she was the golden child I take and could do no wrong with her mother and easily got over her father and goes into her relationship wit...more
Susan
Dec 26, 2013 Susan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Susan by: Unputdownables
Shelves: non-fiction

Zelda Fitzgerald was the inspiration/model for many of F. Scott Fitzgerald's heroines and a talented writer and artist in her own right. Nancy Milford writes in the introduction of this classic biography, "She was the American girl living the American dream, and she became mad within it". Nancy Milford did extensive research and interviewed an amazing number of people who knew or had met Zelda. The book covers Zelda's family background and growing up in Montgomery, Alabama as a reckless beauty,...more
Sheila
Mar 30, 2014 Sheila rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sheila by: Smithfield Street Critics
The biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. This book gives us a look at a literary couple during the 20's and 30's. I found it interesting but it bogged down at times with the exchange of letters between the couple. Zelda's letters at times were hard to follow. I also thought that Scott became the lead character at times. She led a tragic life because of her illness. F. Scott was less than wonderful.
Graham
Though there are more recent Zelda Fitzgerald biographies available, Milford's is still the best of the lot. Zelda's life makes for an emotionally exhausting read, but this is an invaluable book for anyone interested in either of the Fitzgeralds. This book is to be recommended even to readers with just a casual interest in the 1920s, given the Fitzgeralds' connections to most of the prominent writers and artists of the period. Those who come to know the details of Zelda's life and literary outpu...more
Tracy
The legendary story of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald is laid out in this biography of the troubled girl from Alabama. Between Zelda's mental instability and Scott's excessive drinking, no one, not even them, was really sure which came first. Did Scott's drinking make Zelda go crazy or did Zelda's unpredictable behavior cause Scott to drink? What is for sure is that Mrs. Fitzgerald provided a lot of material for Mr. Fitzgerald's novels at times even copying whole passages from her journals.

The biog...more
Suvi
English Translation Studies
Zelda's relationship with Scott wasn't as simple as you would think. For years before everything ended they felt the spark was gone yet they couldn't be away from each other. Scott was possessive about his "material", their life. Zelda seemed fine with it for most of the time even though she wanted to pursue her own dreams. Illness came in the way and the heyday of their glorious days didn't last for long. Such a sad figure she was and what's even more sad is that she...more
rhea
I found this book for .50¢ at a book sale and I had heard about how interesting she was, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out. I already got teased that it had to be because of the video game, The Legend of Zelda, that I cared. The character of the game was named for Fitzgerald, so maybe knowing all of this did subconsciously make me more interested in the topic. A lot of the reviews seem to be reviewing the characters, their actions and their lives, this seems odd to me. Milfor...more
Jane
Reads too much like a doctoral thesis (which I think it was) for my taste, with unending and somewhat laborious quotes.... That being said, the research is solid & interesting; and well written apart from relying on so many samples of disjointed love letters. Good story though, if you like (strict) biography. I generally do. But the funny bit is, this was a late-night Kindle download. After perusing several of the current bestsellers on the subject, & not finding one which grabbed me, I...more
kris
3.5 stars, rounding up.

Zelda Fitzgerald was one of the most notorious women in literary history: wife to F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby); named the First American Flapper; enemy of Hemingway; ballet-enthusiast; painter; novelist; and, at 30, diagnosed with schizophrenia. The rest of her short life was lived in and out of hospitals, sending letters to her estranged husband, writing, and painting, until his death in 1940.

Originally published in 1970, Zelda pools letters, interviews, books...more
Mark Wilkerson
While certainly comprehensive in her research (she draws primarily from letters written between Scott and Zelda), my chief problem with this book is that, possibly because of the sheer volume of correspondence she is drawing from, Milford mostly seems focused on Zelda's life in relation to Scott. For example, there are scant 39 pages dedicated to the six years between when F. Scott dies and when Zelda herself passes on, and most of these pages are filled merely with a summary and deconstruction...more
Gail
I read this book in 1980 and, with the new interest in F. Scott Fitzgerald, I'm going to read it again.
I enjoyed it very much the first time around.
Zelda was nuts (quite literally and clinically) and fascinating ... much more so than her husband. Alas, she had a very sad ending to her very interesting, restless and ultimately sad life.
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