Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

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Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: Narrated by Fowler's imagined voice of Zelda Fitzgerald, this is both a balanced view of events and a touching and ultimately tragic love story of Zelda and her husband, F Scott Fitzgerald. Like much of their life, reality played like an F Scott Fitzgerald novel - full of glamour, alcohol and bad behaviour.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Two Roads
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781444761405

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As Therese Anne Fowler points out in her acknowledgements, views on the relationship between F Scott Fitzgerald and his wife and muse, Zelda, tend to split into 'Team Scott' and 'Team Zelda'. The former believe that it was Zelda's instability and possessiveness that limited Scott's creative output while the latter argue that it was Scott's debauched behaviour that led to Zelda's mental problems. Z takes a more balanced view - the truth of the matter is that they needed each other but were tragically, mutually destructive. Getting the fact-based fiction tone right is always a challenge, and this is exacerbated when the author gives a writer the narrative voice, and Zelda was a talented writer in her own right as well as a dancer, artist and general social phenomenon. However Fowler pulls it off with aplomb in what is a sensitive and engrossing story of Zelda - 'the First Flapper'.

Split into five parts that cover respectively Zelda's early years in Montgomery, Alabama where Scott was stationed as an army officer; good times as Scott's literary career took off leading to The Great Gatsby; Europe and the meeting with Ernest Hemingway; the fall out of Hemingway on Scott and Zelda; and finally the later years. Scott, and Zelda's relationship with Hemingway is one of the areas that is open to historical question but Fowler deals with this in a wholly believable way. Whatever happened, along with alcohol, Hemingway was bad for Scott and particularly his relationship with his wife.

Part of Scott's problem, along with alcohol, was that he seemed to want to be what he saw, but wasn't. He knew people like his great fictional creation, Gatsby, but he wasn't of that moneyed set. That didn't stop him behaving as if he was though. Then when Hemingway entered the scene, he wanted to be the great macho man, and one might say bully, that Hemingway was. Either way his relationship with Hemingway turned from support of a fledgling writer to jealousy of his success. Ultimately though it was Scott's indiscipline that was probably the main barrier to his creative output. While Hemingway had the discipline to lock himself away to write his novels between bouts of boxing, drinking and bull fighting, Scott struggled to leave the good life alone and so often only managed short stories and movie workings as that was all he could stomach the periods of sobriety that were required.

While Zelda and Scott were the darlings of the 1920s social scene, both in New York and Europe, when Zelda became ill, she was forced to abandon the alcohol infused life and Scott both lost a drinking partner and his drunken exploits were seen from the now sober eyes of his wife. And yet, their love for each other comes through in Fowler's book using Zelda's imagined voice. In the end, they couldn't live with or without each other. Fowler presents a sympathetic view though, acknowledging fault on both sides (probably more on Scott's to be fair) but at the same time recognizing what they were to each other. You get the sense that in their prime, both would have made for terrific company.

This is one of those books where your heart breaks when you re-read the Prologue on finishing the book. I have to say that I'm a huge fan of F Scott Fitzgerald's books, particularly The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night but even putting that aside, this is an engrossing read of celebrity life. In some ways the story is specific to the between the war years and that fascinating creative group of writers and artists. In particular the opportunities for women beyond the role of home-maker drew Zelda and frustrated Scott. In other ways, perhaps things haven't changed that much as bright starts shine and burn out. Amy Winehouse anyone?

Our grateful thanks to the kind people at Two Roads for sending us this book.

There is a lot of fact-based fiction on writers to chose from. A Man of Parts by David Lodge and The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan are both well worth reading. But after reading this book, you will probably want to go straight to The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. And who can blame you?

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Buy Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler at Amazon.com.

Booklists.jpg Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler is in the Top Ten Literary Fiction Books of 2013.


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