From the author of Hemingway’s Girl comes a richly imagined tale of Zelda Fitzgerald’s love, longing, and struggle against ever-threatening insanity.
From New York to Paris, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald reigned as king and queen of the Jazz Age, but those who really knew them saw their inner turmoil.
Committed to a Baltimore psychiatric hospital in 1932, Zelda vacillates between lucidity and madness as she fights to forge an identity independent of her famous husband. She discovers a sympathetic ear in her nurse Anna Howard, who finds herself drawn into the Fitzgerald’s tumultuous lives and wonders which of them is the true genius. But in taking greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she ever intended.
In this thoroughly researched, deeply moving novel, Erika Robuck explores the boundaries of female friendship, the complexity of marital devotion, and the sources of both art and madness.
Avid reader. Bestselling author. THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (Berkley, 2021)--about real-life superwoman of WWII, Virginia Hall--on sale now. Forthcoming novel: SISTERS OF NIGHT AND FOG--about real-life superwomen of WWII, Virginia d'Albert-Lake and Violette Szabo--releases March 1, 2022 (Berkley).
Historical fiction, short stories, and essays include: Receive Me Falling (Elysian Fields Press, 2009), Hemingway's Girl (NAL/Penguin, 2012), Call Me Zelda (NAL/Penguin, 2013), Fallen Beauty (NAL/Penguin, 2014), Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion, contributor (Berkley/Penguin, 2014), The House of Hawthorne (Penguin Random House, 2015), Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What it Really Takes to Get Published, contributor (Writers Digest Books, 2016).
#Hockeystrong, a satire written as E. Robuck, was released in September of 2017 (Elysian Fields Press).
Erika lives in Annapolis, MD with her husband, three sons, and a spunky miniature schnauzer.
I'm only 1/2 way through this book and I'm torn: I want to finish it tonight, but I also want to savor every scene, every sentence. From page one, I was hooked by the broken yet incredibly strong narrator/heroine, Annie. Also, who doesn't want a look (even if it is fictional) into the Fitzgeralds' tumultuous life, especially Zelda!
Update: I just finished this wonderful novel. I am so glad I did! There are so many books I've read lately that leave me with a meh or blah feeling, but thankfully, Call Me Zelda left me with a completely satisfied feeling - you know, when you close the book, hold it in your hands, and sigh with a "that was so good" wave of gratitude for the written word - yep, that's what just happened. Thank you, Ms. Erika Robuck, thank you.
[I received an ARC of this book through the Amazon Vine program. There are mild spoilers in the second-to-last paragraph of the review.]
The planned release in May 2013 of Baz Luhrmann's high-profile film version of THE GREAT GATSBY has led to a spate of books about the lives of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, with at least four novels on the tragic couple recently published or forthcoming. I haven't yet read any of the others, so I can only hope that Erika Robuck's CALL ME ZELDA is the worst of the four. Stiff, colorless prose, bland on-the-nose dialogue, a cartoonish view of the Fitzgeralds, and a weak original protagonist make for a disappointing novel that only gets worse as it goes along, culminating in a trite, sentimental resolution that verges on an insult to Zelda Fitzgerald's actual life. The prose is clear and never syntactically awkward, but that's as close as CALL ME ZELDA comes to a virtue.
The novel begins with Zelda's arrival at the Phipps Clinic in Maryland, where she comes under the care of psychiatric nurse Anna Howard, the narrator. Drawn to Zelda's warmth and creativity, and trying to move past a tragedy of her own, Anna forms a bond that extends beyond Zelda's time in the hospital, bringing her into the strange marriage of the eccentric Zelda and the cruel, alcoholic Scott, whose constant struggle to make a living off his writing leads him to abuse Zelda during her attempt to craft a novel. It is Anna who helps Scott recognize that Zelda's book on similar themes is no threat to his own. That moment suggests two of CALL ME ZELDA's major problems.
First, Anna is so perpetually right about what Scott and Zelda need that one senses in her the voice of the author, offering judgments on the failings of Scott and the entire medical establishment. There were plenty of failings to go around, but an idealized protagonist is a poor way of pointing them out. And Anna is most definitely idealized. Robuck tries to mitigate that by introducing the idea that Anna is TOO self-sacrificing, inappropriately caught up in the lives of the Fitzgeralds for a medical professional. Which is undeniably true, but Robuck isn't really interested in exploring the consequences of that. Instead, she contrives the story so that Anna always does the right thing. There is one attempt to suggest in hindsight that a particular decision was bad, but it's unconvincing, and in any case that putative misstep fades to nothing in light of the character's many successes. Anna's moments of self-doubt are a farce, the illusion of a depth of characterization and theme the novel doesn't possess. Her personal drama too is banal, a story of grief and recovery that you've read a dozen times already, with better-realized characters.
The second problem is that all of Scott Fitzgerald's decent impulses seem to come from Anna, as though he was incapable of warmth on his own. Almost everything Scott says to Zelda in this novel is nasty; his only kindness comes during moments of physical closeness, as though he was attracted to her physically but could no longer stand her personality. Even granting that the historical Scott was vicious about Zelda's attempts at creativity, which he saw as his province, I think this is going too far, crushing the complexity of their dynamic and turning Zelda into a wilting victim, Scott into a pathetic ogre. The problem is not so much one of accuracy as one of literary interest: even if every single detail in this novel were drawn from life, it wouldn't make for compelling art. Robuck has no real insight into the deeper forces driving either of the Fitzgeralds, and there's nothing here that couldn't be gotten from a mediocre biography.
It doesn't help that Robuck also has no capacity for subtlety. Anna is constantly saying exactly how she feels and offering accurate readings of other characters. Indirect characterization is virtually nil, as is description, though what there is of the latter is competently-done. Too often, though, we get telling rather than showing. Anna says things like "It was a night out of Poe," but fails to mention a single detail of such a night. The dialogue too is flat. Except for Anna's brother, a cut-up but also a priest (and therefore a source of heavy-handed but blessedly minimal religious moralizing), who is permitted to make jokes, and Zelda, whose malady allows for a certain quirkiness, everyone sounds the same, speaking with the stilted directness of a medical report. That might, I suppose, be an attempt at 1930's diction, but if so, it's a failure. It's also the only such attempt in the novel. The issue is not so much that the dialogue is modern, although I don't think people talked about being in a "food coma" in the 30s, as that there's almost no period detail, and no allowance for the differing social attitudes of the time. This is particularly irksome in a novel about Zelda Fitzgerald, who was a much a victim of sexism as of her husband's jealousy and her mysterious illness.
Robuck is vague in her own understanding of that illness. Zelda was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but that was a catch-all diagnosis at the time, and debate continues as to what she suffered from, if it was anything other than an unstable husband. At one point Robuck puts into Anna's mouth the commendable but anachronistic notion that mental illness is simply a biological dysfunction, echoing the modern suggestion that Zelda was manic-depressive and might have benefited from medication. But not even Anna Howard can prescribe lithium 40 years ahead of time, so Robuck's desire to contrive a sort-of-happy ending for Zelda must be satisfied in other ways.
Without going into too much detail (though those planning to read the book should still probably stop here for fear of SPOILERS), that ending involves Zelda's diaries, which Scott Fitzgerald, in a remarkably obnoxious move, hid when a magazine editor expressed interest in publishing them. I don't know of any evidence that Zelda was hung up on this, though she had every right to be, but Robuck turns it into a psychological crux, the resolution of which fixes all Zelda's problems in one glorious moment. The melodramatic ridiculousness of that scene is only heightened by what follows, which those familiar with Zelda's life story will be able to guess; suffice it to say that Robuck can't change the basic facts, which work rather sharply against her preferred resolution. This is not a serious treatment of mental illness or of the tragedy of Zelda Fitzgerald. It's cozy wish-fulfillment, the ultimate expression of Robuck's desire to fix her subject. One can sympathize with that desire while wishing it hadn't been injected into this novel.
Robuck's penchant for lecturing the reader on exactly how Zelda should have been treated reaches its nadir in a scene near the end, where Anna urges a group of rowdy young Princetonians who express a negative view of Zelda to read her novel, SAVE ME THE WALTZ, before judging her. This advice, plainly aimed at contemporary readers, is no longer as timely now, nearly half a century after Nancy Milford's revisionist biography, as it might once have been, but it's not a bad suggestion. SAVE ME THE WALTZ is, by all accounts, an uneven novel that, like much of Zelda's work, shows more promise than skill, but it undeniably has its moments, and offers some of her perspective on her own life. So yes, read SAVE ME THE WALTZ. Read it, in fact, instead of CALL ME ZELDA.
It was for me a mistake to read Erika Robuck's CALL ME ZELDA (New York: New American Library, 2013) after having read Therese Flower's Z: A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD (2013). Whereas Z kept me turning the pages, CALL ME ZELDA kept me wondering if I should continue reading. A hundred pages into the novel all I could utter is "ho hum."
CALL ME ZELDA is the sort of novel that is enjoyed by ladies who want a somewhat romantic story to pass the time while enjoying a good cup of coffee. It is a good story, well written, but only that.
Zelda Fitzgerald is merely a supporting character in a story about Anna Howard, a nurse in a psychiatric clinic. Zelda Fitzgerald, a patient in the clinic, plays a supporting role to Anna. Other characters, like Zelda's husband the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, move in and out of the story.
CALL ME ZELDA is a bit of light fiction, a notch or two above the cheap paperback romance novels that are cranked out like newspapers. There is really nothing to communicate to the reader any feeling of the Jazz Age. Unlike Flower's Z, I felt that I knew nothing more about the Fitzgerald's or the world they so colorfully inhabited than when I began reading.
In the end, I am left with the feeling that this is just a story, one in which the characters are given names that enables it to capitalize on the renewed interest in F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, an interest stirred up by the remake of the movie, THE GREAT GATSBY. Change the names of the characters, and the story would be the same.
I read the galley of Erika Robuck's newest offering, and it literally kept me up into the late hours of the night. Tragic yet edged with a sense of fragile hope, this richly imagined story shines a light on the enormously talented and complex Zelda Fitzgerald and the compassionate psychiatric nurse who came to love her as a friend.
After writing Hemingway's Daughter, which I have yet to read, this author felt compelled to write a book about Zelda, seeing as how Hemingway hated her so much. A sentiment Zelda shared. The Fitzgerald's relationship was a very volatile one, Scott was an alcoholic and mental problems ran in Zelda's family. They had a love hate relationship that was brilliantly portrayed in this novel. Although Zelda did have a nurse, the nurse in this story and her relationship with the Fitzgerald's was a literary construct. An amazing one I thought. That their daughter turned out as well as she did was surprising, that Scott was ever sober enough to write was surprising as well. The feel and tone of this book is set just right. Have never read "Tender is the Night" which I will now, nor have I read Zelda's "Save me the Waltz" which I also hope to get to. The excesses of this couple, their struggles to balance their lives were brought to life by this author and it was done very well with compassion and grace.
This was a very good book about Zelda Fitzgerald. I've read quite a few books about her, seen movies and read much about Scott and seen more movies. I have always been intrigued by these people and will continue to read their stories. I enjoyed Erika Robuck's writing and I have read her other books and will continue to read anything else she writes. If you enjoy history with a little fiction, this is a good book to read.
F Scott Fitzgerald remains one of America's most famous novelists, penning such titles as The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Love of the Last Tycoon and many more. But it was his wife Zelda, a flapper and dancer from the 1920s, who was his inspiration, and it was their tumultuous, resentful yet passionate relationship the gave their peers much to talk about. Zelda is a high-strung, emotional, creative woman, a beauty in her day with one child, Frances "Scottie" Fitzgerald.
In 1932, Zelda voluntarily enters the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, a private mental hospital attached to John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. It is from there that Erika Robuck's story takes off, introducing us to our narrator at the same time as we meet the Fitzgeralds. Anna Howard is a psychiatric nurse, thirty-five and possibly widowed - her husband Ben never returned from the Great War, and her daughter, Katie, died of pneumonia when still just a child. Alone, Anna puts her energies into caring for the patients in her care, and is drawn to Zelda, quickly forming a bond with the fragile woman.
Zelda is a complex sort, artistic and creative yet struggling against her husband's anger that she is writing a novel that tells the story from a woman's perspective, at the same time as Scott is working on his own version: Tender is the Night. Years ago, Zelda had let Scott read her diaries and he kept them, using them as material for his novels and refusing to return them. Finally, he hid them and they were never seen again. Zelda becomes quite convinced that if she can get her diaries back, something in her will be mended, like putting back a piece of her soul.
Over the years that follow, as Zelda goes in and out of professional psychiatric care and becomes increasingly unhinged, Anna remains her private nurse or, later, her friend. She never forgot about the diaries, so that, in 1948, when Zelda reaches out to her after years of silence, Anna takes it upon herself to complete this last task, to find or at least attempt to find Zelda's diaries and so give her friend some peace at last.
I've been putting off writing this review for a while because I'm just not sure how to articulate my thoughts and feelings, or even what they are in regards to this novel. This is Robuck's second book, following on from Hemingway's Girl (which I have but haven't read yet); Hemingway's hatred of Zelda Fitzgerald led to Robuck's curiosity about her, according to her author's note, and I can easily see what intrigued Robuck and what must have annoyed Hemingway. Zelda is one of those characters who would either repel you or call to you: clearly she called to Anna, yet Anna's continuing loyalty and love for Zelda never really made itself felt, or know, to me. I never really understood what lured Anna in. She questions it herself, wondering from time to time if she is just drawn to their celebrity, but decides this is not the case. Unfortunately, she never managed to convince me, or give me to understand just what it was about Zelda - or Scott for that matter - that held her loyalty. They weren't exactly likeable people, after all.
You definitely need Anna in this story, though. At one point I imagined how this would go, written from Zelda's first-person perspective, and the mess that would be made me shudder. She's incoherent at times, suffering from schizophrenia, and even when she's lucid and calm there's something distinctly unstable about her - that comes across clearly, especially in contrast to Anna's calm, stable and reliable sanity. In truth, Robuck did an excellent job at recreating both Zelda and Scott, their explosive relationship, their troubles and their insecurities. Even at their worst, they still managed to elicit some kind of sympathy or understanding in me.
What was jarring was having them juxtaposed against Anna's plain middle class existence. Anna is a lovely woman, the kind of woman who would make a great friend, yet she's not terribly memorable either: she was good at blending into the background when she needed to, which made her a good nurse to the Fitzgerald's, who never cared about witnesses to their fights or their passionate embraces. But she was such a huge contrast to the Fitzgerald's, who are still stuck in the mentality of the 20s hedonistic Jazz Age - wild week-long parties, the kind of lifestyle immortalised in The Great Gatsby: they lived like they were one of Jay Gatsby's parties, all the time. Lots of drinking - Fitzgerald was quite the alcoholic - and that kind of upper-class superiority that became faded and dowdy during the Depression years of the 30s.
If the novel were told from the third-person omniscient and merely focused on the couple, without anyone exterior's perspective, it would have been quite a different novel, and very contained. Having Anna narrate both highlighted the unrealistic lifestyle of the Fitzgerald's and put them into perspective in terms of how everyone else was living, and also isolated them into a bubble. Anna doesn't know their friends, their vast circle of acquaintances; she never went to lavish parties or danced the night away. She worked. She married. She had a daughter and she kept working. She didn't have a nanny, like Zelda had for Scottie; she didn't neglect her child so she could keep on partying. The contrast is jarring, but effectively so. The Fitzgerald's live in their own world, and it's one that is breaking down and rotting from the inside-out.
This is where I struggle: on the one hand, it all works really well and makes for a great story. On the other hand, there was just something missing, something that made it hard for me to really connect, and I can't figure out what that is, even two weeks after finishing it. Perhaps it's the writing style. Perhaps it's the Fitzgerald's, who were such unlikeable people that I couldn't understand Anna's loyalty to them, how quickly she would say "yes" to their demands and requests. It could be that the way we see the Fitzgerald's, long after the blush has faded from their lifestyle and Zelda's being committed, is deeply depressing in the way that only the "end of an era" can be.
One thing that helped was Anna's personal story, which begins so sadly yet ends so happily. Seeing her get a second chance like that stopped the story from sliding into seriously depressing territory - though I did find that the way Anna and many of the characters spoke rang rather modern. Occasionally I had to consciously remind myself that this is set in the 30s and 40s, because it sounded so contemporary at times.
The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was the atmosphere, especially those scenes that let the novel dip into Gothic Horror territory. Zelda's instability and craziness lent it some of that, but there were times when Anna experienced it herself - hallucinations or a creeping sense of dread, or when she visits one of the houses the family had rented many years ago in her search for the diaries, which has lain empty because there's something about it that scares people off. There's something about the Fitzgerald's that naturally leads into gothic horror land, and the atmosphere that surrounds Zelda is always a spooky, creepy one.
Overall, this made me much more curious and interested in the real-life story of Zelda Fitzgerald - and her husband, Scott - than I was before; before reading this I'd never spent any time thinking about her, or them as a family, and what their life might have been like. It makes me interested in reading the recently-released Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler - which has a gorgeous cover, it naturally drew my eye - which tells the story of young Zelda and how she met Scott, and their early life together. Though I can't help but think that now that I know how their story ends - tragically, sadly, depressingly - it would make reading Z all that more sad. Still, I do recommend this, especially if you're interested in the real lives of this celebrity couple and want to know more about them. They were both such flawed people, and so creative, their lives are endlessly intriguing. (For a more positive - and definitely better written - review of this book, visit That's What She Read.)
My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book.
"Call Me Zelda" is the story of a nurse, Anna, who first cares for Zelda in an asylum and then privately. The story is told from Anna's perspective and is mostly about her interspersed with large dollops of the Fitzgeralds' lives. Robuck is firmly in the anti-Scott group. She attempts to show the gray areas of Zelda's condition emphasizing not only her mental issues but also her creativity which was squashed by Scott's ego. His alcoholism.also fueled Zelda's feelings of abandonment and despair.
This is an interesting book but bleak without the joie de vive of their Europe years to relieve it. It's mostly set in the first half of the 1930's with an epilogue about the end of Zelda's life. The parts about their daughter Scottie and how she coped with the chaos was sad. I recently read Fowler's "Z" and loved it. I much preferred "Z" because the writing was better and the story more exuberant and it gave a more balanced view of the Fitzgeralds' troubled relationship and lives. I'm immensely enjoying this resurgent of information on Zelda and "Call Me Zelda" is an enjoyable contribution.
This review is based on an advanced readers copy supplied by the publisher. (Disclaimer given per FTC requirement.)
I have to admit a strange fascination with the twisted, glamorous life and mental down spiral of Zelda Fitzgerald. This fictional account of her life, narrated by her psychiatric nurse, Anna, did not disappoint. I found the pages turned effortlessly in this book by Erika Robuck, and I could not put it down.
After finishing a stunning advanced reading copy of Erica Robuck’s upcoming THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE, a literary historical fiction of Nathaniel and Sophie Hawthorne (May 5, 2015)- highly recommend; as well as her collaboration of Grand Central Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion--found I had missed some of Robuck’s previous books, and quickly purchased them on audible.
CALL ME ZELDA, is a captivating multi-layered historic literary fiction, focusing on Anna Howard, a young nurse who connects with flapper, Zelda Fitzgerald--as her personal nurse and later management of the Fitzgerald household; Zelda, Scott, and daughter, Scottie.
Anna becomes an important part of their family, developing a deep personal connection with Zelda on many emotional levels. Anna has experienced a tragic past and has buried her life in her work. Her husband is still missing in action and her daughter died of tuberculosis. When Anna meets Zelda at the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Baltimore, in 1932, she wanted the best for Zelda and could quickly see her talents, and thought she may be able to get better, if she were moved to a more private setting with her encouragement.
Soon, Anna agrees to work for the Fitzgerald’s as Zelda’s personal nurse at the La Paix, their Baltimore mansion. Zelda, a girl from southern Alabama, is multi-talented – a ballet dancer, an artist, a writer, and complicated. Being married to Scott, a famous writer, always struggling with deadlines, financial woes, and creating the next story--has his own issues with alcohol, depression, and controls Zelda, even though he loves her. Anna, of course is a life saver for Scott, helping control Zelda’s energy, while Scott tries to write, always worried about Zelda's interference.
Zelda of course has mental illness issues, with constant ups and downs. Anna encourages her to write her stories; however, Zelda tells Anna she cannot show them to Scott, as he does not like her writing. From one house to another, from Baltimore to North Carolina, Anna desperately tries to protect Zelda and yearns for the happiness and love between this couple, while her own personal life has been so sad and unhappy. However, Anna may be able to find her happiness and a second chance.
Ah, Zelda, what is not to love about this talented, mysterious woman, as always have been fascinated with this literary couple, and love stories with different twists. Robuck cleverly adds another layer by adding Anna’s character with a different spin for a heartwarming and touching story.
While capturing the Fitzgerald’s turbulent marriage, and reliving some of their glamorous days from the Jazz Age to the Depression, from New York to Paris, and the journey, leading to the end of their lives-- A bittersweet complex story which combines a nurse who becomes Zelda’s best friend, and little does she know, Zelda in the end wants the best for Anna with two women bound by friendship, hope, love, tragedy and life.
I have read Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald by R. Clifton Spargo, Therese Anne Fowler’s “Z”, a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald,The Great Gatsby and many others, with twists of Zelda. Each of course, is unique and different, so would encourage readers to experience each of them.
CALL ME ZELDA, a spellbinding story for historic and literary lovers, alike, will appreciate this compelling story, especially told by Robuck, as her passion for literary characters, is reflected throughout the pages as her characters come to life.
Listening to the audiobook, the narrator, Amy Landon delivers a soft pleasant voice, and definitely captured Zelda's southern charm. Looking forward to reading Hemingway's Girl .
The author uses the nurse of Zelda when she was first institutionalized for a diagnosis of schizophrenia to tell the story of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Theirs was a torrid, incredibly destructive relationship. The love was real and solid, as was the tearing apart and incredle dysfunction that resulted from two people who did the best they could when it simply wasn't enough.
Zelda's nurse in the institution becomes fascinated by this incredibly lovely, sometimes caring, always insightful woman. She watches as Scott's alcoholism takes over, making him a bitter and sad figure, who is equally brilliant and equally selfish.
A incredibly destructive relationship, their push and pull, love and hate, give and take, hug and push away antics were annihilating beyond words. Each knew the tender vulnerabilities of the other and relished stabbing and emotionally destroying each other.
They could show intense love and tenderness in equal measure with the exceeding anger and angst.
All this plays out while their daughter Scottie looks on while trying to find a safe space for emotionally protect herself.
Excellently written, this is an amazing story set in the jazz age when Zelda was the ultimate flapper girl, intensely beautiful with a cutting, conoving nature who pulled men into her circle to relish the admiration and desire. Scott was one such man who fell under her spell. Unlike the others, he could not escape.
Part of the "lost generation." They truly lived up to the term coined by Gertrude Stein. They were part of a group of post-WWI American writers living in France and England who were highly disorganized, with no set direction, and included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and T.S. Elliot.
Though stellar, long-lasting American literature lived on long after their demise, Fitzgerald drank himself to oblivion, Hemingway found relief from his emotional demons at the end of a gun. Tragically, Zelda died in 1948 in Asheville, NC because of a fire while staying at an institution there.
As a Maryland novelist myself, I wanted to read this as I had enjoyed Hemingway's Girl a year before. I am drawn to books about writers and the aspect of Zelda's mental illness as well as Scott and Zelda's stormy relationship intrigued me.
Some reviews have written that the character of Anna Howard, the nurse who first met Zelda when she was inpatient and later became her in-home caregiver, overstepped....that there was not enough of Zelda Fitzgerald in this book. Idid not think so. It gave Robuck the creative license to tell another story here, which I enjoyed.
Erika Robuck's use of language seems well-developed. How she wove in the role of the diaries came across satisfying to me, especially in the end (no spoilers here though). She described scenery and clothing well. There was enough action in the lives of the Fitzgerald family for me, and I truly enjoyed Anna's brother Peter and friend Will in this novel also.
What I did wonder about -- and admittedly we live in a different era -- was the confidentiality issue and ethics of Anna becoming so close. I think this would have been worth a mention given how obsessed we are with boundaries like this today. If it was there in pieces, I may have read, but I think it then deserved more attention. People warned her not to get too close for Anna's own sanity and emotional being, but what about the dual-relationships there?
Overall, I rate this five stars as it's an excellent read. I typically like more heat to romantic plots, but understand that's perhaps one boundary the author chose to keep to the reader's imagination, and she did. Loved the Maryland references, as well. I weave that kind of thing as well as history into my own novels, though they are much more contemporary.
An incredibly whimsical tale that takes you as the reader through the life of Anna as she becomes involved with the Fitzgeralds. Harkened back to the Jazz age of the Great Depression and the hardships that befell the Fitzgeralds; it's a story of grief, relationships, struggle and emotions. I, much like Anna, became enthralled with the legends Scott and Zelda. I already had a taste of Scott's writing with 'The Great Gatsby' and a few others, so it was interesting to see how he was like and what his interactions were with those around him.
And Zelda, oh dear poor Zelda--Robuck's lyrical dialogue brought her to life for me. If I had my way, and Internet connection while reading, I would have spammed you all with various dialogue that Zelda uttered over the course of the story. Such lyrical treasures they were and I wanted to fold them up and place into my heart's pocket to remember. --whoops, guess it's slightly a rubbing off on me now lol.
I've always been fascinated with historical people, especially writers during these trying and often harsh times. It's intriguing to see how their lives reflect and inspired their writings. But most of all, how they lived and breathed words into our lives forever encapsulated within these books we read and reread again and again.
Having so recently finished Therese Anne Fowler's "Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" I was a bit disappointed to see the library fulfilled my hold request so quickly. "Z" was such an excellent view into Zelda's life that I was afraid it would overshadow Erika's work.
It did not. If anything, it set the stage to make Erika's "Call Me Zelda" soar in flight, though it didn't set that impression upon my first sitting. My first reaction was: "Erika! Why would you tell the story from her nurse's perspective?" I soon understood that in the case of THIS nurse, the story could not have been told more lovingly -- not just of Zelda, but of Scott and Scottie as well.
I'd thought this would be my last reading into the lives of this tragic couple, but having read it, I feel I have to go back and read Scott's works, Zelda's, AND Scottie's. I want to see Zelda's paintings, too.
Thank you, Ericka, for writing this beautiful story. I'd thought your "Fallen Beauty" was great -- and it WAS, but having read both now I can tell you that it isn't just the Fitzgeralds' works I will be looking for more of but yours as well! :D
Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald must put CALL ME ZELDA at the top of their TBR pile. Just as in HEMINGWAY'S GIRL, Erkia Robuck once again introduces a fictional character to deftly illuminate the lives of these literary icons. Her prose is beautiful and the story gripping, especially the ending.
In this time of renewed interest in The Great Gatsby and Zelda, there couldn't be a better time to read this one! Enjoy!
Erika Robuck has a gift for taking the reader to the a time and place where we can experience the focus of her historical novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda come to life and for those of us who have read and enjoyed his books, this was a terrific experience into the lives of two insecure people in love with each other but finding life itself difficult. 'Call Me Zelda' was a terrific read.
I didn't know very much about the Fitzgeralds when I started reading this. I was disturbed by the hold that Zelda had over the narrator and felt that the nurse put Zelda's wishes over her and Zelda's well-being. Still, I liked the main character, although I've already forgotten her name!
Judging by the title, I assumed the story would be told from Zelda's point of view, but I think the author made a very smart choice by having Nurse Anna narrate. I'm not sure I could have handled a story told in Zelda's voice for long! What a tragedy for people who suffered from mental illness before proper medication became available. Even with medication, it's a difficult burden to bear. Because the story is split between Anna and Zelda, we don't get many details about Anna's time in the various mental hospitals and I enjoyed seeing the story of Scott and Zelda through the eyes of an outsider; after all, they were celebrities which makes the fishbowl view especially fitting. The last third of the book dragged a little bit for me but it was all tied together nicely at the end. 3.5 stars.
I finished Call Me Zelda on Tuesday night and I’m still thinking about how wonderful this book was. While I was going through the chapters, I felt every possible emotion one could feel when reading a book: sadness, hope, excitement, anger, frustration…the list could go on and on. This is dazzling and touching story that will pull you at the first chapter and keep you hooked until the end.
Call Me Zelda revolves around two very different women. Anna is a quiet, psychiatric nurse who has lost both her husband, who didn’t make it home from the war and her daughter, who passed away of pneumonia at just 5 years of age. And then there is Zelda, wife of the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald and vivacious flapper, who struggles with schizophrenia. When Zelda is committed into the Phipps clinic where Anna works, the two instantly connect and form a bond that will last for the rest of their lives.
As you dive into this book, you start to feel that you are a part of the characters’ lives and I wanted nothing more than to help them. Through Zelda’s letters to Anna, you get a glimpse into the relationship between her and Scott, from how they met and fell in love to how their relationship deteriorated over time from mental illness, alcohol abuse and jealousy. In addition to the Fitzgeralds, I loved reading about Anna’s journey including her relationships with her brother Peter, her parents, and her friends. This book was full of such unique and complex characters that I loved reading about and couldn’t get enough of.
Also, I have to admit that I didn’t know that much about Zelda Fitzgerald before reading this book and now I can’t stop reading about her. I found myself googling and researching more about her life as soon as I finished Call Me Zelda and I continue to look for different books and stories about this fascinating woman.
This was my first book I’ve read by Erika and I can’t wait to go back and read her other books, including her new novel, Fallen Beauty, which comes out this March. Robuck did a phenomenal job – I highly recommend this book to any type of reader!
Robuck has a talent for words which makes this novel beautiful, inspiring, tragic and heartfelt all together. This book about Zelda Fitzgerald focuses on the "second half" of Zelda's life in which she was institutionalized and where the breakdown in their marriage had started to really show. But, the book does not focus on Zelda, rather, her nurse, Anna, who has suffered immensely. Having married and had a daughter, Anna's husband Ben does not return from the war (is MIA) and her daughter dies of pneumonia at five. Always having a passion to care for others, she was a nurse at Walter Reed, even going to Europe to nurse during the war there, then became a psychiatric nurse where she meets and becomes close to Zelda and all her crazy, nervous, anxiety-ridden, soul-sucking depression and mania that can be attributed to Scott's overbearing reach on controlling every aspect of her.
Being in and out of facilities, Anna then becomes her (and by extension, Scott's) private nurse and leaves her job at the psych center only be be swallowed by the craziness. But, Anna needs to get away and live her own life. In a series of close-calls, Anna begins to explore romance again, including a musician upstairs but romantically, Ben's best friend, whose only life has crumbled a bit. Robuck does this so beautifully, this love and you root for Anna because you know she needs to escape the Fitzgerald's and "begin" a new life of HER OWN.
The finality of it all happens when Zelda contacts Anna after years of neglect and Anna goes to try to find Zelda's diaries, which Scott had hidden from her. She does find them, after going on a quest, and presents Zelda with a scrapbook of her journey and her very abused and rotting diaries. But readers already know Zelda has improved and is ready to leave her last institution. Though, that same night, there is a fire at the facility and Zelda parishes in her room, locked in, when she was ready to begin her own life anew.
So beautifully tragic, inspiring, well-written, emotional! I would highly recommend.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I was drawn to this book because of a movie I watched a long time ago. It was about Zelda Fitzgerald and her life with F. Scott Fitzgerald. I don't remember the name, nor could I find it. However with the movie Gatsby coming out a little while ago, there has been a surge of interest in the Fitzgeralds. Call Me Zelda is told through her nurse, Anna. Anna works at the psychiatric hospital that Zelda is admitted to in 1932. Zelda and Anna form a quick friendship. Anna is drawn to Zelda's personality. She is warned to keep her distance and not to get too attached, but Anna slowly finds herself drawn into the Fitzgerald's disorderly lives. Scott and Zelda have a love-hate relationship. It's very rocky to say the least. Their relationship reminded me of Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. They loved each other to a fault. Their love hurt the people around them, but they couldn't stay away from each other. Zelda's story is told through the eyes of Anna. Anna is damaged as well. She lost her husband and child and hasn't really recovered from it. Somehow her connection with Zelda starts to heal her old wounds. The Fitzgeralds are fascinating. Erika Robuck did a great job with this story. She mixed true details with fiction to help make this story believable. For example, Scott took Zelda's diaries and used part of them in his books, such as The Great Gatsby. I really enjoyed reading this book. It fueled the fire I have for reading books by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but it also made me curious to read the books Zelda wrote as well. This is a book I would recommend to anyone curious about the Fitzgeralds life. While there are some truthful elements to this book, it is fiction but entertaining nonetheless. Read more at http://www.2readornot2read.com/2013/0...
Call me a bigger fan of Erika Robuck's writing after finishing “Call Me Zelda”... I loved it as much as “Hemingway's Girl”. I started reading this book with very limited knowledge of F. Scott and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald; a heartbreaking journey of celebrity to traumatic despair and ruin.
Through the eyes of Anna Howard, a nurse at a psychiatric hospital we see the breakdown of Zelda Fitzgerald's shattered marriage to the infamous writer and her continuing instability. Not to take away from what Robuck did with the last years of Zelda’s life, but in Nurse Anna she created a compelling fictional character; one that you ached for and rooted for. She is sympathetically drawn with real pain and a real life of her own. She is complex much like Zelda, but based in reality and, therefore, a good balance to the troubled Zelda’s feeble mental state.
A clear comparison of what art is defines the difference between Zelda and Anna: “Art is a form of madness... When I am in the creative place, I am outside of this time and space. It is jarring to come back...almost painful..” explains Sorin, the violinist Anna befriended. Though Anna defines it by saying, “The act of art is so important. It is expression, identity. It helps others cope... a safe place where they [those who appreciate the arts] can confront their demons and conquer them.” Each a different perspective, defined by the artist and the other by the audience. Music, art and writing show the torments of the artists, but also its benefits throughout the book.
This book is engaging and beautifully-told, though at the same time utterly tragic. Yet despite the melancholy mood at times; a direct opposite of life in the 1920s, this story is touching beyond words and I couldn't put it down. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, I highly recommend it!
The arrival of the famous Zelda Fitzgerald to a Baltimore Psychiatric hospital forever changes the life of her nurse, Anna Howard. Anna has a past all boxed up in her bedroom closet where she'd like to keep it. Her work and weekend trips to her parents are her life, until Zelda walks in.
Zelda is sometimes perfectly normal, but things turn so quickly.She seems to be trying to separate her identity from her famous husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald --she is literally trying to write her own story. The longer Zelda is in the hospital the more drawn to the Fitzgerald's Anna becomes. Her friendship with Zelda begins to change who Anna is in ways Anna never expected!
I honestly knew little to nothing about Zelda Fitzgerald before reading CALL ME ZELDA. I really enjoyed Robuck's use of a fictitious nurse to tell a behind the scenes fictional account based around what we can learn about the couple. I, myself was fascinated with the Fitzgerarld's turbulent relationship, they ran hot, they ran cold--their's was a crazy love story. I was always left wondering what the real story between them was.
I was immediately drawn to Anna or her story, but the more drawn into their life she became...the more she seemed to come alive. It was like their overabundance of energy and life fueled her. Her friendship with Zelda opened Anna up. Just as soon as I found myself enjoying Anna's story, I wanted to pull her back before---and wow what an ending!
As soon as I put the book down, I jumped on to google to look up pictures of Zelda and to learn more about her. I wanted more Zelda! I was captivated by the store and with Robuck's beautiful writing. I am highly recommending CALL ME ZELDA!
I truly enjoyed reading this historical fictional account of the life of Zelda, the wife of F.Scott Fitzgerald.
This couple lived life large, from New York to Paris and moved in social circles with other now famous authors, like Hemingway. They seemed to have the world by the tale. This story is set in the early 30's during the Jazz era. Zelda was an accomplished painter, writer and dancer by her own rights, and yet lived in the shadow of her husband. At one point, he "stole" her diaries, used the contents within those diaries to write his own books and then hid those diaries from Zelda. This couple is depicted as soul mates and yet destroy each other as they can't quite live with each other.
Beneath all of the glam and glitz of their lives, their marriage was full of turmoil and strife. This story is told in the voice of Anna,a physicatric nurse, who found Zelda in her ward one day. Anna and Zelda had an immediate connection and Anna soon became Zelda's private nurse as well as a confidant. Anna herself questions whether she has crossed the line professionally at times in her care of Zelda. there were times when she would get between the shouting matches between the couple, to pull them apart and to try to bring peace to sad and pathetic situations.
I also really loved Erika Robuck's novel "Hemingway's Girl." Hemingway, also had demons he struggled with, in spite of his success at writing. There's a common thread amongst some of these people who made it on the world stage.
I found Call Me Zelda interesting in many ways. I was impressed with the narrator being Anna. Anna's voice added another avenue of interest as well as her own tragic past plumping the plot overall. Her characterization is well done and Anna shines in a positive light with her many attributes and natural caregiver persona. Her dedication and affection towards Zelda was touching, crossing her professional line but aware of her continuing affronts. Always having Zelda's interest at the forefront despite cloudy decisions regarding her care and recovery confirmed Anna's sincerity.
Robuck provided enough insight on the stormy and moody marriage of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Their relationship problematic as well as toxic with pauses of peace. Zelda's numerous mental health challenges were not exploited. Robuck generously shared Zelda's personality when lucid, her artistic side and her vulnerability and strength. Zelda's letters recapturing her past directed towards Anna was ingenious and plausible.
Although the story focuses mainly on Anna, the sparse and sporadic appearances of Zelda caused the narrative to be intriguing and not overdone. I enjoyed both females and although their endings were contrasting their characters were similar in more ways than imaginable.
Robuck's ability to depict the landscape carried the reader back in time with a number of historical references as focus points. Her melodic prose is always enjoyable.
Historical fiction fans and Jazz Age lovers will enjoy Call Me Zelda
Erika Robuck's love, respect and compassion for Zelda Fitzgerald shines through in her beautiful novel, Call Me Zelda. Zelda Fitzgerald has been sorely misunderstood in life and in death, and Robuck clearly set out to set the story straight with meticulous and careful research. She has given us a beautifully written novel which is a must-read for anyone who wants to better acquaint him or her self with the fascinating and multi-talented Zelda Fitzgerald.
Call Me Zelda covers the latter part of Zelda's life which found her in and out of psychiatric hospitals while still clinging to her old life with Scott and their daughter, Scottie. The story is narrated by Anna, a fictional nurse who helped care for Zelda, and the close friendship they developed. Anna is a wonderfully developed character.
This is a very well-written, emotional, high impact novel. I love historical fiction, but some of the dialog in novels I have read comes off sounding fake and almost childish. I did not find this so with Call Me Zelda, though. The dialog felt real and natural. I confess to crying at least three times during my reading when certain scenes and characters grabbed at my heart strings.
I commend Ms. Robuck for this fine novel. Her readers will not fail to recognize that this is an important work.