The name Fitzgerald is synonymous with The Great Gatsby. As a high school English teacher, I am no stranger to the nuances of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his "roaring twenties" lifestyle, to include his vivacious wife Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. What I'd never really considered, until now, was what it might be like to be married to a man like Scott. And while Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler is a fictional account of their life from Zelda's point of view, it paints a harrowing journey of living with a literary mind.
Raised in deep south Alabama, Zelda Sayre was quite always the life of the party. Doing her part to support the war efforts, and by saying this I mean dances and hidden drinks and kissing by the light of the moon, her ebullient and alluring personality captured the attention of a young F. Scott Fitzgerald. At the time, he was serving his duty in the armed forces, but the decision of Armistice prevented him from ever seeing actual combat. Married far too young and far too soon before Scott's personality infiltrated the recesses of Zelda's life, an adventure begins - sometimes journeying to the top of Olympus, but more often plummeting into the river Styx.
Their tale is the height of the Jazz Age. The parties, the lifestyle, the drinking (despite prohibition) and the downfall hits them harder than The Great Depression. F. Scott Fitzgerald makes a name for himself, but this novel explores Zelda in all her glorious, glamorous, and complicated mess.
Fowler's writing is flawless - Zelda's first person narrative leapt off the pages at me. I could not put this book down and found myself rereading sentences with the same intense passion that I've read F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing. She can and does a phrase worthy of literary merit and praise. I felt as if Zelda was talking directly to me and my heart broke for her in ways I cannot explain. Fowler provoked anger in me at the boy-wonder of a husband that destroyed Zelda's sparkling persona, and internalizing that anger caused me to despise not only Scott, but his novels (I'm over this - still love Gatsby - but there were moments). After reading this, I see so much more in Fitzgerald's writing than before, particularly knowing that much of his fodder came from her. I know she was a victim of the "times" - but his abuse of her ideas hurts my soul. She is Daisy or Rosalind - her life became the backdrop of which he wrote his novels, and his corruption of her spirit leaves a black hole in me, as much as it clearly did in her. The afterward discusses the research of the Fitzgerald's lives, and for me I'm cleary #teamzelda.
You can purchase from Amazon The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald for a fairly steep price right now (it would not be the publishing industry if they couldn't make a buck off something). But, this collection of work establishes her as what she was all along - a true artist in not only the performing world, but the literary world. She is a member of the Lost Generation and one worthy of notice and praise. May she earn posthumously the credit she did not receive in her life. I know I will be changing my approach to teaching Fitzgerald, with Zelda taking center stage. She was his muse and had it not been for her, I'm not sure works like Gatsby would even exist.
This novel is a must read - it's an eye opening adventure based on real events. A resounding and full ☕☕☕☕☕ - this book will haunt me for quite some time.
This is Therese Anne Fowler's first novel, but I'm sure we can expect more great writing from her. To learn more about the author, visit her website at: https://thereseannefowler.wordpress.com
Side note: There's a lot about Hemingway in this and the sordid relationship with F. Scott that has seen much speculation over the years. I've never liked Hemingway - he's an ass and I thought so before, during, and after reading this book. Sorry for this little random rant, but just felt the need to get in a dig on ol' Ernest.