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Zelda: a Biography
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Zelda: a Biography

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  6,627 Ratings  ·  418 Reviews
The wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda has remained a shadowy figure. In this biography it becomes clear how deeply dependent on each other the Fitzgeralds were, and to what an extraordinary degree their dreams were matching ones. We also get insight into Scott Fitzgerald as a husband and dominator. During more than one nervous breakdown and clinic visit were, remarkably, ...more
Hardcover, 424 pages
Published January 1st 1970 by Harper
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"

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 rated it liked it  ·  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
Gemma
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There’s a tendency to take sides when we read about a turbulent marriage, to take one side or the other. I’ve noticed in other reviews people have tended to take Zelda’s side. But I thought this was a scrupulously fair account of the marriage of the Fitzgerald’s. It seeks to understand the forces that drew them to each other and broke them apart rather than judgementally casting blame. It’s as much a biography of Scott as Zelda and I think the first thing to take into account is that had she not ...more
Kirk
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Britany
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Moments of sheer entertainment mixed with sluggish chapters that made me want to put this book down left me feeling mixed up and slightly disappointed. Not sure when I began my obsession with the Fitzgerald's (ok mostly Zelda), but now I can't seem to say "NO" to any book about them-- right along there with books about the Holocaust. Some inexplicable thing that draws me right in before I even read the synopsis. Started out strong and I was pulled right in, almost felt like I was living in the 1 ...more
Sara
May 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The is the life of the enigmatic Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, a picture of the Jazz age, the original flapper. That is who we think she was and that is the way history portrays her. We see her in our minds zipping through Paris with her charming husband, Scott, and hobnobbing with the literary elite of the time, and she was all that, but so much less.

Before reading this, I was aware that Zelda had serious mental, nervous conditions and was institutionalized, but I did not grasp how much of her life
...more
Linda Robinson
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Claire
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I knew the broad brushstrokes of the Fitzgeralds' relationship (who doesn't?) but learned so much more about them from this biography. It grew out of an academic thesis, and I could have done without the exhaustive direct quotes from the Fitzgeralds' letters, especially as Zelda's writing became less coherent. I appreciated when the author would draw conclusions and tease out main ideas; I just wish she had done that more often.

Zelda was pretty exhausting. She seemed profoundly self-absorbed an
...more
Carol
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jasmine
May 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Leslie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mmars
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Silvia
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Voy a intentar escribir una reseña de este libro en el blog así que sólo diré por el momento que me ha gustado mucho y que lo recomiendo sólo a aquellos que sean 'fitzgeraldadictos' porque de otra manera puede resultar un libro denso. Es tremendamente detallista y he aprendido con él un montón de curiosidades sobre este matrimonio.

Me quedo con la primera parte del libro que nos narra la infancia de Zelda, me ha encantado ver que era como la imaginaba, una niña inquieta y prácticamente asalvajada
...more
Sara Klem
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My knee-jerk reaction is to rate this book one star because, like, what the shit, F. Scott Fitzgerald? I give your LIFE a one-star rating.

But alas, Nancy Milford did a wonderful job of portraying Zelda and Scott's absolutely fricked-up, codependent, abusive relationship and for that I commend her. She was detailed with her sources and citations, some might say to a fault, as some chapters did drag on, though ultimately I've decided it was fun to pick and choose which aspects of her life I'd like
...more
karenbee
Jun 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Some biographies can trudge along but this one bubbled and flowed as Zelda would probably say based on her writings and her penchant for using loads of metaphors for absolutely every concept she was trying to express.

Nancy Milford spent years producing exhaustive research and it shows.

She starts with Zelda's parents and Zelda's birth in Montgomery Alabama. We get an idea of the sort of family Zelda was born into and it gives us a better idea why she developed into the sort of woman she ultimatel
...more
Matty
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not going to be a formal review by any means, but I do want to share my thoughts.
I have so say that if you’re a fan of Zelda, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or even his work I highly recommend reading this.

I’ve been a fan of Zelda Fitzgerald, but never knew too much about her life, other than she was the wife of F. Scott & that she was the original flapper as many believe. This book gives so much insight to her life, but I feel this could also be of biography of Scott’s as well, because of
...more
Jenny McPhee
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dawn Lennon
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Laetitia
I will never read F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels the same way again. I knew that Zelda was his muse, his inspiration - but I didn't know that his novels were autobiographical.

I am shocked that Zelda and her husband did not separate their personal lives from Scott's professional life at all. It took a true toll on them, which they didn't seem to realize until it was too late. They're the perfect example of two people that should have never been together. Scott wanted to dominate Zelda but she clear
...more
Leslie
Jul 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-memoirs
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
rhea
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Laura
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Susan
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan C
May 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, writing
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
Jessica
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Over the years, I've read a lot about Scott & Zelda. I'm so sorry I didn't read this book first. I tore through the text and whenever I wasn't reading thought about Zelda and her story almost constantly.

Milford's text allows the reader to appreciate Zelda Fitzgerald for all that she was: muse, spitfire, madwoman, and most of all, victim. Milford uses Zelda's own words -- culled from her own correspondence, diaries, and fiction -- to document mental illness in a vivid and frightening way. In
...more
Graham
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jane
Aug 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
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Nancy Milford (born March 26, 1938, in Dearborn, Michigan) is an American biographer.

Milford is best known for her book Zelda about F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife Zelda Fitzgerald. The book started out as her master's thesis and was published to broad acclaim in 1970. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, spent 29 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list, and has si
...more
“In reality, there is no materialist like the artist, asking back from life the double and the wastage and the cost on what he puts out in emotional usury.” 3 likes
“I hope I'll never get ambitious enough to try anything. It's so much nicer to be damned sure I could do it better than other people - and I might not could if I tried...” 0 likes
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