Day 756: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Cover for ZTo write a novel about Zelda Fitzgerald, Therese Anne Fowler had to make many decisions between competing sources. Historians and biographers are sharply divided between those who think Zelda ruined Scott’s life and those who think Scott ruined Zelda’s life. Fowler ends up coming in pretty firmly on Zelda’s side. Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast said nasty things about both of them, but many of those things have been found to be exaggerations or outright lies. In any case, I’ve always thought Hemingway was a jerk.

This novel begins when Zelda, fresh out of high school and a popular debutante, meets Fitzgerald, at that time in the army and due to ship out to Europe and World War I. It ends shortly after Fitzgerald’s death. It paints a vivid portrait of Zelda, a woman trying to find a purpose in her life beyond being a wife.

If Fowler has made the right choices, the novel creates a devastating idea of Fitzgerald, insecure, unfaithful, controlling, and alcoholic. He undercuts Zelda in every way possible, publishing her stories under his own name, taking control of her published novel in the editing stage and butchering it, being generally nasty, and threatening to take away her daughter Scottie when she wanted to accept a solo role in the ballet in Naples. His friendship with Hemingway especially drove them apart, as Hemingway was relentless in accusing her of being selfish and ruining Scott’s career, and Scott began to believe it. Note that Hemingway is the same person who did all he could to halt his own wife’s career as a war correspondent.

I was completely absorbed by the novel, which strongly characterizes Zelda and to a lesser extent, Scott. My only criticism, besides a few too many descriptions of clothes, is that most of the other characters are only sketchily drawn. A great many characters appear in these pages, and I can’t say that I had much of an impression about any of them, to the point where I couldn’t remember whether some were friends or relatives. With such vivid personalities as Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, H. L. Mencken, and Hemingway appearing in the novel, more could have been done with them.

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12 thoughts on “Day 756: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

  1. Sarah August 18, 2015 / 3:20 pm

    This book is an absolute favorite of mine. I have read this book twice. I do agree with too much detail in clothing or scenery, I feel she could of gone into more detail with those you come across in the book that are not the main characters. Also, during some of the parties I would confuse some characters with others because there were so many being talked about at once, it was at times hard to keep up and I felt myself scrambled in the writings.

    • whatmeread August 18, 2015 / 3:28 pm

      I thought it was bad when there was a scene with a woman and I didn’t know whether that person was one of Zelda’s relatives or a friend. Characters should have been more defined than that. The characters of Zelda and Scott were well-defined and to a lesser extent, Ernest, but not any of the others.

  2. dunaganagain August 18, 2015 / 8:15 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read this. I’m curious, did you read Save Me the Waltz? And if so, what did you think (I haven’t read it but after reading The Beautiful and Damned and Tender is the Night I’m very curious to hear Zelda’s own voice, not filtered through Scott)?

    • whatmeread August 19, 2015 / 7:22 am

      No, I haven’t read Save Me the Waltz. Yes, I would like to read something by Zelda.

  3. Susan@Reading World August 19, 2015 / 4:13 pm

    I enjoyed this one. I thought it made a nice comparison/compliment to The Paris Wife about Hemingway’s first wife. Hemingway is a jerk no matter whose viewpoint you’re looking through.

    • whatmeread August 20, 2015 / 7:24 am

      That has always been my general impression.

  4. Regina August 19, 2015 / 6:04 pm

    I have a lovely 1960s vintage pb copy of Save Me the Waltz and I still haven’t read it, but I’ve had this book on my TBR list for a while now as well. I hope I will enjoy it and be able to get past some of the shortcomings you mentioned. Thanks for the great review!

  5. Naomi August 24, 2015 / 11:38 am

    It’s nice to read reviews of some of the older favourites – I still want to read this one!

    • whatmeread August 24, 2015 / 11:39 am

      I think it’s definitely worth reading.

  6. Carolyn O September 1, 2015 / 5:48 pm

    “I’ve always thought Hemingway was a jerk.” LOL. Kay, you’re the best.

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