Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"'s Reviews > Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Z by Therese Anne Fowler
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Mar 26, 2013

really liked it
bookshelves: all-fiction, av, america, domestic-and-relationship-fiction, europe-and-british-isles, historical-fiction
Read in March, 2013

This is Zelda Lite. I think this novel will be absolute perfection for readers who just want a quick romp through the years of Zelda's life that are most relevant to her role as the wife of a famous and very troubled writer. There's almost nothing in the book about her life before she met Scott, and only a brief Afterword covering the years from when Scott died in 1940 until her death in 1948.

What you get here is a look at the years when the Fitzgeralds were the golden couple, and Zelda was the Jazz Age Priestess. These years were followed by the long decline of their relationship, exacerbated by their peripatetic lifestyle, Scott's worsening alcoholism, and Zelda's troubles with what may or may not have been mental illness.

Fowler takes us back in time and lets us hang out with these people and see the challenges and temptations they faced as products of their era. The author has a real flair for dialogue, and a wonderful ability to create a sense of time and place using just the right amount of period detail. If you love historical fiction that never gets boring, you're going to love this novel.

Just prior to receiving this novel, I read two biographies of Zelda. If you've read much nonfiction about her, you may find yourself puzzling over why certain key people and events were barely mentioned or entirely left out of this novel.

You may also find, as I did, that the way Fowler portrays Zelda does not match your interpretation of her personality. This was especially noticeable for me because the novel is written in the first person, using Zelda's voice. I would have preferred a third-person narrative, which might have allowed us to get closer to some of the other characters. On the whole, though, I found that my previous reading about Zelda enhanced my enjoyment of the novel. I was able to fill in the gaps with what I gleaned from nonfiction accounts.

I'm inclined to believe that both Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald were even more diabolical in their treatment of Zelda than is shown in this novel. Their badgering and cruelty were huge factors contributing to her nervousness and emotional instability, as well as to the general perception that she was "crazy." This opinion comes largely from my reading of Sally Cline's excellent work, Zelda Fitzgerald Her Voice in Paradise. I have not yet read any biographies of Scott. My understanding is that his biographers portray him in a much more favorable and sympathetic light.

If anything I've said here seems uncomplimentary, that's certainly not my intent. Therese Fowler's careful research is evident on every page, and her writing is truly a pleasure to read. The only readers who might be disappointed are those looking for greater detail and a broader scope. This novel is a delightful introduction to Zelda and an invitation to learn more about her life.
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Hiya, Chelsea. Thank you for reading my review. The Cline book is a challenging read, but well worth the perseverance. It has a lot of vital info that's not in Nancy Milford's earlier work, including all their ridiculous fighting over who's a 'fairy' and who's a lesbian. It's also very enlightening with regard to Hemingway's influence over Scott, and the way "Hem" used all of his friends and all of his women for money.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I should add that the one way in which the Milford book is stronger is that it gives a lot more information about Zelda's childhood, and the way she was indulged and allowed to run wild.


message 3: by Caroline (new)

Caroline You sound as though you know a lot about this group of people Jeanette....


message 4: by Judy (new) - added it

Judy This sounds like a good book for me. Jeanette are the Z-pert! *grin*


message 5: by Sabina (new)

Sabina Thank you for the review, Jeanette. I looked at this one last weekend, but wasn't quite sure how much background information,if any, I would need to enjoy it. I think I'll start with the non-fiction you mentioned.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Caroline wrote: "You sound as though you know a lot about this group of people Jeanette...."

It's a sort of accidental expertise. One book led to another, and if you can believe it, I'm going to revisit the Cline book very soon. I didn't make any notes the first time through.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Judy wrote: "This sounds like a good book for me. Jeanette are the Z-pert! *grin*"

As you know, my Z-pert status will be short-lived, superseded by my status in the C.R.A.F.T. Club. :D)


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Sabina wrote: "Thank you for the review, Jeanette. I looked at this one last weekend, but wasn't quite sure how much background information,if any, I would need to enjoy it. I think I'll start with the non-fictio..."

You're welcome, Sabina. If you read the nonfiction first, you'll understand why I call this Zelda Lite. Not meant as an insult. Only the truth.


message 9: by Judy (new) - added it

Judy Lol. At least you have status!


message 10: by Holly (new) - added it

Holly Gatchell Jeanette I love reading your reviews. My sister picked this up on CD the other day and it looked very interesting . After reading your review I can't wait to read and learn more about her.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Holly wrote: "Jeanette I love reading your reviews. My sister picked this up on CD the other day and it looked very interesting . After reading your review I can't wait to read and learn more about her.

Thank you, Holly. I hope the CD version has a good reader. That can be a big factor in your enjoyment of an audio book.


message 12: by Holly (new) - added it

Holly Gatchell I totally agree with you. The one reading the audio makes A big difference if they are good or bad. If you don't like the reader it can make A negative impact on the book.


Jamie Long Thanks for the biography on Zelda I've been looking for one for a while now:)


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