Tag Archives: Zelda Fitzgerald

Book Review: Z by Therese Anne Fowler (4/5)

8 Dec

First NaNo problem: remembering enough of this book to write a review about it! I finished this book back on 17-November so I’m digging into my heart for this one. Expect more of a review on how the book made me feel than the plot. I wanted to read this book because I’m fascinated with ‘the original flapper.’ F. Scott Fitzgerald defined the flappers in his novels and he and his wife were the epitomai of the movement. My 1920s fascination couldn’t let me ignore a book about her! I found the book at a Friends of the Library sale but decided to listen to the audiobook so I could get to it sooner.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Summary from Goodreads:

When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too?

Reading this after Call Me Zelda, I wasn’t really sure what to think of Zelda. I knew about her mental illness later in life, but what would she be like as a young, beautiful Southern Belle? I found I liked her a lot. Zelda was a very modern woman for her time and was living in a very rigid environment in Montgomery. I was surprised with the things she dared to do while still living with her parents. Once she moved out and married Scott, it surprised me less. Her life with him was beyond frustrating. I found myself hating Scott who is also the author of one of my favorite books. It was hard not to compare this title to Call me Zelda so I’ll say only that I liked this one better and the small time they did overlap in time was starkly different. Z portrayed Zelda as a victim of Scott’s pressures who was really fine while Call Me Zelda implied Zelda was truly very sick but did add that Scott was no help at all. Maybe I need a whole post for this!

I found Zelda very believable. I wasn’t sure if she would be because I know she develops mental illnesses later in life and I wasn’t sure how much Flower would incorporate those early in her story. I was also surprised how believable Scott was. I think very highly of him because of his writing but I really hated how it much of a drunk he was and how much he controlled Zelda. He was unpredictable and I felt really bad for Zelda. She could never have the things she wanted. The ballet story broke my heart the worst and how they both reacted to it was very telling of their entire relationship.

Zelda shone in her own story. I thought Fowler did a great job bringing her to life and showing how she was smart and independent while still being a devoted wife when she had to. She was very different from her contemporaries but very relatable for a modern woman in the 21st Century. I understood her desire to be independent of Scott and have things she was passionate about and successful in on her own. I liked that about her and I can see why she was such a rebel in her time.

It’s easy to think of someone in your life who was overbearing the way Scott was to Zelda, be it a parent, spouse, sibling, teacher, boss, or someone else. Every little thing you do is wrong or your ability to decide is taken away. I could relate to this part of Zelda’s relationship with Scott (side note, not my husband, don’t send Social Services!). I thought Zelda was very patient with him and I could understand why she pushed back on him toward the end. Sometimes enough is enough!

Therese Anne Fowler Image via Amazon

Therese Anne Fowler
Image via Amazon

The time Scott and Zelda spent in New York right after they were married was the most magical to me. They were both happy and their troubles hadn’t started yet. Both were so glad to be living together and be married and they were enjoying all the parties and fun they could off of Scott’s success. There was no money worry yet and it was before Scotty and Zelda’s passions came between them. It was their honeymoon period to be sure.

The subplot about Hemingway bothered me. I think the animosity between Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds could be attributed to a number of things and I thought Hemingway propositioning Zelda was a bit much. As much as the book made me dislike Scott, it made me feel even more angry about Hemingway than The Paris Wife did. It’s awful when your literary heroes are terrible people. Maybe I need to stop reading about them. I know this is a fictionalized account, but a lot of the book is based on history I know is true but chose to ignore.

Jenna Lamia did an amazing job narrating this book. I was amazed at her ability to slip into and out of accents. She portrayed Zelda with a lovely southern accent but when Scott or another character spoke, she used a Midwestern accent and even had French accents where appropriate. She brought Zelda to life for me in a magnificent way and I’d love to listen to some of her other work.

The Fitzgeralds tried to have everything and they could only keep juggling so many balls for so long. There’s an extent to how perfect someone’s life can be. They may have looked ideal on the outside but on the inside, their marriage struggled and they were unhappy a lot of the time. I think many of us see friends, co-workers, or celebrities that we idealize because their life situation seems so wonderful but we have to remember that there’s likely something going on beneath the surface that’s less than perfect, much like the Fitzgeralds.

Writer’s Takeaway: It’s nice to read an adult novel in the first person. That point of view is used widely in YA but it’s not as common in historical fiction. I liked the point of view for this novel because Zelda was such a personality herself that it would have been completely lost in some omniscient narrator. Like it was lost in Call Me Zelda. She needed to have her own book and I think this was a fair representation of what Zelda would have been like.

I really enjoyed this book and I think the audiobook was an even greater treat than the book alone. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler | Books and Reviews
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler | Violet Wells
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler | Curio Street Reads

Book Review: Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck (3/5)

25 Oct

My love of the 1920s and my love of The Great Gatsby led me to wanting to read books about Fitzgerals and mor notably, his wife Zelda. Much is written about both and they were very influential members of the Lost Generation. I’m really glad that this means a lot of fiction about Zelda and her life to get me in the mood for more 1920s awesomeness. I wanted to read this book for a long time and found a copy at the library’s used book sale, but I ended up going with the audiobook of this title.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Call me Zelda by Erika Robuck

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

I thought this book would focus more on the time leading up to Zelda being committed so that was a slight let-down. I really liked how Anna told the story. It would have been so different to have Zelda talk about her life with Scott but having Anna see it objectivly and figure out how they had become what they were was really interesting. I liked having Anna’s backstory and adventures in the story as well, it gave it a lot of depth. Most of the time, I was cheering for Anna even when Zelda was a pain. Some things I found a bit unbelievable but I could see the Fitzgerald’s relationship growing the way Anna saw it and understood it from the past. It seemed a very sad but very real marriage.

One of the things that bothered me about this book was Anna’s obsession with the Fitzgeralds. She doesn’t seem to understand it herself so as a reader it was harder to understand. Why was she so taken with this one patient? It seemed to be her celebrity and Anna reacts irrationally to this which is made frustrating by all of her other actions being so rational. If she was going to quit her job and stand up for a woman who was clearly not stable because she was a celebrity, why would she be so put together when it came to all other decisions? This inconsistency was essential for the plot but dragged it down for me.

Despite this, Anna was my favorite character. It was hard to get attached to Scott and Zelda at this point in their lives. I’m sure if it had been 10-15 years earlier, they would have won me over but past their heyday, they’re not as likable. Anna had things going for her and though she was a somewhat bland character, she was easy to root for. I just had to hope she made logical decisions.

Part of what made this novel a little difficult for me is that there was no character I could relate to. Zelda and Scott are nothing like me and Anna was very haunted by her past, something I’ve never felt. The only other strong character was Peter and while I’m also a Catholic, I’m no priest. Maybe he was the easiest for me to relate to in retrospect, but I don’t think he had enough of a role in the plot to be a character I felt was flushed out enought to be relatable.

Erika Robuck Image via Goodreads

Erika Robuck
Image via Goodreads

I enjoyed hearing about Anna’s life, especially her romantic relationship with Will and Sorin. Sorin was a great side character and I wanted even more out of him. He seemed very shy to have saved her from a violent attack. And I thought Anna was weak-willed not to confront him about his misunderstanding earlier which, in my opinion, ruined all chances of them being together. Maybe Robuck always wanted her to be with Will and that was cute and sweet, I can appreciate it.

I was really upset when Anna quit her job to work for the Fitzgeralds. She was not being a medical professional by the way she acted, covering for Zelda and becoming to close to her. It was very out of character from how she described her time in the war. If she’d been that much of a professional, she wouldn’t have formed the bond and then we wouldn’t have this story. If there’d been some kind of emotional trauma that could have started her close feelings to Zelda, it would have been mor believable.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Amy Landon. I thought Landon did OK but her voice was somewhat flat through the book. She has a very ‘whimsical and airy’ voice which was right for large parts of the novel as Anna seems to observe the things around her without feeling them. But at times when there was a fire to put out or emotional trauma, this vocal quality made me feel disconnected from the real trauma Anna was feeling.

It seems odd to say, but friendship was a big theme of this book. Anna shouldn’t have befriended her charge like she did and it was highly innappropriate and then Anna left them to go back to her own life which seems a poor thing for a friend to do. But the ending was something only a friend would do. What Anna did for Zelda was a great service to her and it as sweet to see. I’m not sure it was believable, but it was sweet.

Writer’s Takeaway: Character motivation was lacking for me in this book. Anna went from disciplined and professional to covering for mental patients and quitting her job. There needed to be more motivation for this drastic change because I didn’t blieve it and was put-off by her inconsistency from the beginning.

A fun read but frustrating at times and somewhat flat. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
My Review of Erika Robuck’s Call me Zelda | Musings in the Middle
Two Books about Zelda Fitzgerals: Z and Call Me Zelda | Book Addiction

Recently Added to my To-Read Shelf

14 Sep

I’ve successfully added another three books to my To-Read Shelf so it’s time to tell you all about them!

  1. Loba by Diane di Prima.   This book was lent to me by a friend, the same person who lent me Post Office.  Loba is Spanish for she-wolf and di Prima’s piece explores feminist issues through poetry.  I’ve never read Beatnik poetry before so this one will be a very different experience.
  2. Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck.   Whenever I tell anyone that I’m researching the 1920s, they have another book I should read or movie I should watch.  This is one of those recommendations.  Tracing the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, this novel concentrates on her battle with madness and insanity in a mental hospital at the outbreak of the Depression.  Zelda forms a relationship with her nurse, Anna, that becomes much more than the two anticipated.
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.   Nicole found this on-line and realized that the two of us must read it.  The story focuses on Cath, who is an extreme fangirl: writing fan fiction, dressing up for releases, etc.  When she goes to college, her sister and fellow fangirl declines living together and distances herself from Cath.  Cath must develop her own path and contemplate leaving her fandom behind.

So there they are!  Have you read any of them or heard anything about them?  Which ones should I jump at or are there some I might want to take off of my list?  Leave a comment and let me know!