Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

I finished reading Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald in the early morning hours before I went to sleep.  when I woke a few hours later, I felt a heavy sadness because I realized the book was over and I would no longer be in Zelda's world and also, sadness because her life had turned out to be so miserable. Even though I knew the outcome, as I read the book, I kept hoping things would somehow get better, that someday she'd have the life she wanted. But as we all know, that didn't happen. 

Being a feminist, I've always been very much Team Zelda.  My fascination with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald began when I was in high school.  After reading and loving The Great Gatsby, I  read Tender is the Night, which is presumably largely autobiographical.  When I read it the first time, it seemed like a beautiful, but tragic love story.  When I read it again, as an adult, after having learned more about life in general, and in particular, the actual lives of Zelda and Scott, it seemed merely tragic.  Dick Diver was cruel to his wife, Nicole.  I despised the character as well as Scott, thinking how absurd he was to think he was writing a sympathetic character when in fact he was confessing to the horrible way he'd treated his wife and their marriage. 
I liked the way this book was written. As the title states, it's a novel, not an biography. The writer has taken liberties to create events as they may have happened, based on her research.  I thought it worked well. The Zelda of this novel sounds and behaves very much the way I have always imagined Zelda to be. 

This book does a great job of drawing us into the world of the Fitzgeralds - the success and the failures, the parties and the fights, but most of all the unrequited desire both Scott and Zelda felt to have something more. They were never satisfied with life, they always wanted something other than what they had - more love, more money, more acclaim, more friends, more booze. Scott wanted a beautiful, independent-minded wife, only to resent her independence and desire to establish a career of her own.  Zelda wanted a successful husband to take her away from her life in Alabama, only to resent being known as nothing more than the wife of a famous man.

The strongest theme of the book though is Zelda's struggle to create her own life, something independent of her husband. She wanted to be a dancer, a painter, a writer, something other than Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Every time she tried, every time she always succeeded, something got in the way - her husband or her health.  She admired feminists and other women who lived their own lives, but she was never brave enough to try and do as they'd done. 

By telling this story in Zelda's words, readers are able to feel as if they are directly involved in this world, they see the glamour, as well as experience the emptiness of that glamour.  It was never quite as fabulous as it seemed.  To the rest of the world, they were the "golden couple" and they worked at maintaining that facade, even as they fell apart at home.  While other marriages ended, they struggled to keep theirs intact because despite in all, they always believed they loved each other.  By hearing these stories told by Zelda, readers have a better understanding as to what they went through - true or not - and no one will ever know exactly what happened between the - it provides an interesting story.

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who has any interest in Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and would like to learn more about Zelda's story.

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