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“Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” by Therese Anne Fowler is the story of the love affair and marriage of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre, outsized
figures of the Jazz Age.
Much of this historical novel, whose settings shift from Montgomery, Ala., to New York City, Paris and other European cities, takes place in the 1920s. The story is told from the viewpoint of Zelda, who met Fitzgerald in 1918 when he was stationed in the military near Montgomery. But the author also writes from the husband’s perspective, paying close attention, as well, to the time period and details of the Fitzgeralds’ life together.
Their marriage, at first brilliant and full of energy and excitement, later became destructive. If Ernest Hemingway’s accounts of Zelda’s clinging ways and mental health issues are to be believed, her problems were destroying the literary talents of Fitzgerald.
From the viewpoint of Zelda, Fitzgerald’s fascination with Hemingway caused the rift in the Fitzgerald’s marriage. The two men were good friends in Paris just after Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” had been published, when Hemingway was still an unknown author.
Fitzgerald seemed to idolize Hemingway and was influenced by the way he treated women.
The Fitzgeralds become part of the expatriate literary crowd. In the book Zelda, a strong character in her own right, has ambitions of her own and grows tired of being her husband’s muse. She writes short stories, but they are published under her husband’s name in order to garner more earnings.
She paintes and dances well enough to be offered the position of prima ballerina in an Italian production. But Zelda declines the offer as in those days, a wife did not work outside the home.
Fitzgerald apparently loved Zelda, yet they tore each other apart. The author carefully documents what is known about Zelda’s mental illness and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s alcoholism.
Set in an era when flappers were asserting their rights, when everything was fast and furious as if to compensate for the horrors of World War I, “Z” is the story of the intelligent, complicated and talented woman who was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s inspiration.