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Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (edition 2013)

by Therese Anne Fowler

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7676412,072 (3.81)34
Member:pjhess
Title:Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Authors:Therese Anne Fowler
Info:St. Martin's Press (2013), Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

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Therese Anne Fowler takes the real-life love story of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and fictionalizes it in this account, giving greater emphasis and creditability to Zelda's own voice.

While I found the book a bit slow to get into personally, by about a third of the way in, I didn't want to put it down. Zelda is an interesting, if conflicted, character and her life with "Scott" throws her in the path of many other well-known celebrities of their day including Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and a plethora of other artists, literati, and Hollywood types who each serve to make the story even more entertaining. And reading about the dysfunctional relationship between Zelda and Scott was like watching a train wreck -- you know you really shouldn't, but you can't quite keep your curiosity at bay.

Fowler's writing style is a good fit for this type of book. It is not overly simplistic nor does it try to knock your over the head with its "literariness." There's a liberal dosing of foreshadowing and metaphors, but it's not an overly symbolic, heavy read. Despite its length, it could be read fairly quickly and easily while still containing enough intriguing tidbits for the reader to look up more about later as well as providing fodder for discussion.

My edition included some additional reader information like an author interview and discussion questions, which are handy for book groups. Overall, I'm glad to have read this book and ended up learning quite a bit more about the Fitzgeralds and their circle of acquaintance as a result. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Apr 22, 2016 |
Interesting. Glad the author included a note at the end. I'm dubious about her theory on the animosity between Z and Hemingway, but understand the need for a theory. Also appreciate the info on Camp Zelda / Camp Scott. Otherwise, I'm not sure if this dug deep enough into her pathos, but in the end I enjoyed it as a story that she herself might have told, which is what the author intended I think. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
Z:A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
375 pages

★★★ ½

Let me start this out by saying, regardless of the material, I love the narrator of the audio edition, Jenna Lamia. I have heard other books by her and every time her voice is music to my ears. She has Southern down. Which is funny because from the research I’ve done, she’s never been anywhere near the south. But boy, do I love it when she does audio books (she is also an actress), she just brings life to books. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the book as much if I had not listened to it.

There is always risk, I think, in doing a piece of fiction when there are so many non-fiction sources out there – and there are A LOT of things known about the Fitzgerald’s. And when you add in other people, such as Hemingway (which makes sense), the author definitely wants a challenge. So how did the author do? Alright. It is well known that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda had a very rough relationship, to say the least, and that comes through beautifully in the book. There is very little in this book about Zelda’s life pre-Fitzgerald and that sort of irritated me but perhaps the author was looking for the drama found in the marriage. But, while there was drama, there was a lot of reaaaaaalllly slow parts in here that I question if I could have gotten through if it wasn’t for the audio version (although I often zoned out during that too), luckily it packed back up later on the book. I think the author did well in writing the characters, F. Scott being exactly as one would expect and Zelda being a little harder to grasp just like I think she was in real life, a very real portrayal. It’s no The Paris Wife, but it is an interesting view on Zelda and her tumultuous descent into darkness. Worth the read if you are into historical fiction.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
Audio book performed by Jenna Lamia

Zelda Sayer was just shy of her eighteenth birthday, a popular debutante in her Montgomery Alabama home, when she met a dashing young Army lieutenant – F Scott Fitzgerald. The rest, as they say, is history. This novel – and it IS a novel – tells the story of the Fitzgeralds from Zelda’s point of view.

Of course I already knew the basic story of the famous couple – their meteoric rise to fame, their frantic partying as they embraced the Jazz Age, their slow descent and early deaths. What Fowler has done, however, is take all the biographies, memoirs, letters, news accounts, reviews, and magazine articles and crafted a wonderfully personal story of a fascinating woman and the man she loved. She peppers the novel with real incidents and the large circle of friends and acquaintances who were nearly as famous as (or sometimes more than) the Fitzgeralds. Ernest Hemingway looms large in the story of Scott and Zelda’s years in France and of their marriage, and so he plays a significant role in this novel. But it’s wise to remember that this a work of fiction, told strictly from Zelda’s point of view. Yes, we do get some counterpoint when she is arguing with Scott or some other character, but her opinions, thoughts, reactions are the primary focus here.

Fowler does a good job of painting the landscape of the time and place as well. The Fitzgeralds lived in many locations during their marriage – New York, St Paul MN, Maryland, Paris, the Riviera, Italy, Switzerland, Hollywood. Fowler manages to give us a glimpse of each locale, but not a clear picture – blurred as it was by all the alcohol these two consumed. More importantly, the focus of the novel is on the relationship between Zelda and Scott. They lived in a very tiny world, focused on one another, feeding on each other’s weaknesses or strength as the occasion demanded.

The result is a mesmerizing look at a marriage that is doomed from the outset. Yesterday a large sinkhole opened up taking half a Baltimore street (cars, trees, etc) with it. Every time the video is replayed on television I find I cannot tear my eyes away from the destruction unfolding before me. I already know what is going to happen, but I can’t stop watching it. I felt the same way reading this book.

Jenna Lamia does a fine job narrating the audio version of the book. Her Southern debutante Zelda is spot on perfect. Her older, shrill, frustrated, mentally exhausted Zelda is equally as good. And she does a pretty good job on the male characters as well.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
You can tell Fowler's research involved reading a lot of letters, because most events in the novel are (or feel) "reported" rather than fully dramatically realized. The novel's most serious weakness is its failure to bring the main character to life. Fowler's strategy for redeeming Zelda from Hemingway's depiction of her as a childish, possessive vampire is to pierce the flapper persona to expose the bland ordinariness, if not quite conventionality, of her interior life. Zelda was a good writer and a flamboyant personality, but the voice of Fowler's Zelda is flavorless, spiced up only by the names of French locales and literary celebrities, & clumsily direct in spelling out the trite and obvious.

Sometimes Zelda's voice is entirely lost as the prose falls into Penguin Classics introduction mode ("Scribner published The Sun Also Rises in October of that year, 1926. Its sales were respectable but not astonishing, and its reviews generally good but not an avalanche of praise").

More often, the prose is just plain flat-footed or clunky:

"In London, we met up with Scott's friend Shane Leslie--whose aunt was Lady Randolph Churchill, whose son Winston took luncheon with his mother and us and then went back to his duties at whichever important post he was assigned to at the time."

"Though my colitis had improved a great deal since I'd taken the cure in Salies-de-Bearn, new twinges of pain made me scared that a relapse was imminent."

"I'd recently read Dreiser's first novel, Sister Carrie, having met him at some Hotel du Cap soiree the summer before, and was interested in seeing what scandalous tale he'd written in the new book."

"Scott had rented the house, La Paix--which means peace, a moniker that would grow ever more ironic..." ( )
  middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
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Epigraph
Happily, happily foreverafterward - the best we could.
- Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald
If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?

—T.S. Eliot
Dedication
Once again

To

Zelda
First words
Prologue: Dear Scott, The Love of the Last Tycoon is a great title for your novel.
Chapter I: Picture a late June morning in 1918, a time when Montgomery wore her prettiest spring dress and finest floral perfume - same as I would wear that evening.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Picture a late-May morning in 1918, a time when Montgomery wore her prettiest spring dress and finest floral perfume—same as I would wear that evening…

Thus begins the story of beautiful, reckless, seventeen-year-old Zelda Sayre on the day she meets Lieutenant Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald at a country club dance. Fitzgerald isn’t rich or settled; no one knows his people; and he wants, of all things, to be a writer in New York. No matter how wildly in love they may be, Zelda’s father firmly opposes the match. But when Scott finally sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, Zelda defies her parents to board a train to New York and marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Life is a sudden whirl of glamour and excitement: Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his beautiful, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, trades in her provincial finery for daring dresses, and plunges into the endless party that welcomes the darlings of the literary world to New York, then Paris and the French Riviera.

It is the Jazz Age, when everything seems new and possible—except that dazzling success does not always last. Surrounded by a thrilling array of magnificent hosts and mercurial geniuses—including Sara and Gerald Murphy, Gertrude Stein, and the great and terrible Ernest Hemingway—Zelda and Scott find the future both grander and stranger than they could have ever imagined.
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A tale inspired by the marriage of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald follows their union in defiance of her father's opposition and her abandonment of the provincial finery of her upbringing in favor of a scandalous flapper identity that gains her entry into the literary party scenes of New York, Paris and the French Riviera.… (more)

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