I’ve just finished reading Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. It took me longer than normal to get through this book though, as staring adoringly at our seven week old baby has really been cutting into my busy book reading schedule!
This book fits into the ‘faction’ genre; a novel based on real people and events, and chronicles the life of Zelda Fitzgerald over the course of her marriage to novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The story starts out optimistic, full of hope and excitement as young Zelda meets the dashing young soldier Scott, who is stationed near her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama during WW1.
The story then follows this golden couple of the Jazz Age, as they make their way through the upper echelons of American and European society. However there is the ever present sense of foreboding that all will not turn out well. There are too many parties and drinks, new places to go and people to meet for Scott to realise his full writing potential, and it was the wrong era for a woman like Zelda, fullstop.
By the end of the story when the foreboding feeling has been realised there is a real atmosphere of melancholy. Zelda has lost everything – her husband, her daughter, her sanity – and is living with her mother, once again back in Montgomery.
Reading the story as a woman of today it is hard not to feel frustrated by the controls placed on women by men at that time, and I think the author felt this too. A woman with her personality, talents and joie de vivre was wasted as only a great man’s muse; she was a writer in her own right, a dancer and an artist, but pursuing these activities professionally was not an option for a married woman at that time.
I did like the book, but it didn’t grab me like I had hoped. I didn’t get a real feel for the era as you do when reading literature from that period – if one of the characters had pulled out a cell phone I wouldn’t have been that surprised!
While I came to know far more about the life of Zelda Fitzgerald from the book, I didn’t feel that I ever really engaged with her despite the character of Zelda being the narrator, nor did I ever really get a true feel for Scott.
Therefore, I’d recommend if you wanted an interesting read, but it’s not a must-read for me.