Around and around she goes – “Z – A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” by Therese Ann Fowler

May 15, 2013 at 5:00 am 7 comments

Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Fitzgerald (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I admit to being fascinated by the Fitzgeralds – particularly Zelda.  They were rich, crazy, extravagant and extraordinarily talented but not, apparently, happy.  I had looked forward to this book and had high hopes for it.  With The Aviator’s Wife I thought the writing was good but was uninterested in the subject. With “Z” I was extremely interested in the subject matter but kept bumping into poor writing, making it hard to really enjoy the book.

Zelda was born and raised in a fairly high class family in Montgomery, Alabama.  She is the quintessential Southern Belle – but of course with a wild, rebellious streak.   She meets F. Scott on one of his stays in Montgomery and he woos her but returns to New York City to make his fortune writing before marrying her.  He eventually sells some stories, comes back to fetch Zelda and thus begins their tumultuous life together.

This life consists of Zelda unclear about her role in her own life and in Scott’s life.  She dances, paints, writes and, according to Fowler, puts up with what appears to be a fairly abusive relationship with Scott.  Fowler writes this all from Zelda’s point of view but her voice is so simperingly benign that it is hard to reconcile her with what I have read previously about Zelda.  Fowler views the Fitzgerald’s relationship in this merry-go-round:

1. They are in love

2. Scott starts drinking too much again

3. Zelda pours herself into her (pick one) dancing, writing, painting

4. Scott plagiarizes some of her writing and then runs out of money.

4. Zelda wears herself out and becomes ill

5. Zelda is fed up with Scott and they have a falling out

6. Scott promises to do better.

And repeat. And repeat.  And repeat.  Even with the beautiful places that the Fitzgeralds lived and vacation, Fowler’s writing is not up to the task.  I never felt like I could see the beautiful South of France or even taste the gin and tonics.  It is truly unfortunate because Fowler had a great opportunity to breathe life into an already extremely interesting time with amazingly interesting characters but it all just falls flat.  Zelda’s issues with mental illness are glossed over and the stunning revelation that Hemingway and Scott may have had a homosexual affair is frankly not that stunning.   All the while I kept thinking “how have you made the Fitzgeralds boring?”  I hate to be cruel but if this is how Fowler handles interesting material then let’s hope she doesn’t  decide to write about the mundane. That would just be painful.

Other reviews to check out:

Entry filed under: May 2013 reads. Tags: , , , , .

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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