A Review of Z a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler

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While I was at the SYP Conference last year, I picked up, or rather found in my free Inspired Selection tote, a copy of Z a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne FowlerI had not come across it before and it just ended up on my shelf.  After finishing Child 44, and rushing out the house to work, I grabbed it and began a fascinating read about Zelda Fitzgerald, until then, who I knew nothing of.

Z begins with Zelda living at her Southern home with her parents, the ‘Baby’ of the family she has 26 days to go until she turns 18. While at a party, she meets the eligible Scott. Naturally she falls head of heels for him and their wild, turbulent life together beings. Throughout which, Zelda struggles to find her own identity in society where women’s roles were changing significantly, as well as being overshadowed by her Husband’s fame.

While a fictional account of Zelda and Scott’s life together, Therese Anne Fowler drew inspiration from the many letters that they wrote to one another and friends, plus biographies of them both, in order to bring her characters to life. Zelda is witty, intelligent and playful and it is Zelda that narrates the novel. Naturally everything is from her point of view, but I particularly enjoyed her internal monologues. Zelda is considered the first flapper and perhaps first visible feminist – as this fictional account suggests – how can we know how much of this wild, fun, feminist Zelda was her true self and not some part written for her by Scott – or even a part she played for Scott who then used her for his writing? While certain older women in the book wanted to trade places with her 18 year old self and friends, to hand out leaflets in the support of the vote and raise awareness of sexual diseases, Zelda was not really interested, only rolling up her hem line and taking off her stockings to catch the attention of the young men. By the end of the novel she reflects on her younger self as a ‘giddy girl who [was] unconcerned about woman’s rights.’ Though throughout the book her feminist stance is not really touched on and you get the feeling that she is indeed playing a role, never fully understanding herself as a person or fulfilling her potential as an individual, which ultimately led to her break down in 1929. Zelda

Scott Fitzgerald meanwhile is seen through Zelda’s ‘eyes’. As a reader you fall in love with him along with Zelda, falling for his charm, ambition and positive go get attitude. But of course, like Zelda you start to see his personality unfurl and turn, as the spotlight of fame bought about from the success of his writing brings out another side.  As the book progresses, you settle into Zelda’s narrative and the writing becomes sophisticated, akin to how Zelda grows as a woman, in experience and as a writer herself. Like Zelda, you also begin to fall out of love with Scott as she watches him slowly destroy himself, his family unit and arguably Zelda.

The book painted a great picture of the 1900s and 1920s. Glamour exuded from the pages as Zelda and Scott drank champagne and frequented fabulous parties, meeting the rich and famous. Anyone who likes a good romance or wants to immerse themselves in the glamour and decadence of the 1920s then this is the book for you. I really want to go to New York now, or failing that Steam & Rye! This is a good introduction to Mrs S Fitzgerald, and I certainly will be investigating her further.

Z a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Two Roads, £7.99

Steam & Rye: http://www.steamandrye.com/

Helping others to help yourself – 2014 The Society of Young Publishers and beyond…

Trying something new…

2014 was the year that I decided that I would try something new, that would take me out of my comfort zone. So when my close friend and 2014 SYP Chair, Helen Youngs, asked me to be on the events team, I of course took a monumental amount of time to decide whether I would or not. My main concerns being: I wouldn’t know anyone and I can’t be bothered. After lots of deliberation I decided that wasn’t the right attitude and accepted the role.

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Meeting new friends/networking…

I of course have made some fabulous friends by being on the SYP committee. What was I worried about? The whole team shared many loves and passions that I did, the obvious one being books! The initial hurdle was the SYP AGM where you meet the new team and say goodbye to the old, so lots of people milling around. However once you are introduced to a few people all nerves/doubts dissipate. Easy! I don’t know why I was worried.
This is my thought process now, every time I go into a new social situation. It’s never as bad as you think it will be. Though my networking skills have a lot to be desired, something I wish to improve on in 2015. The thing about publishing is, everyone is really nice and willing to talk so not really sure why I find this challenging.

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So it wasn’t as much work as I thought…

My can’t be bothered attitude was quickly forgotten as events needed to be planned, professionals needed to be contacted, event spaces were to be found. The desire to give the best event and get as many people there I think is the main drive for the whole events team. Looking back at what we achieved in 2014, I think we can all say we are proud of what we did. Thanks girls!

SYP mentor scheme…

I took part in the Marketing Mentor session run by the fabulous Sophia Blackwell. I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity, as I have had some great advice and met some great people. It has also highlighted to me the value of having a mentor. Not only did I have Sophia to advise me, but I am also still lucky enough to have two managers who guide and teach me in my work, how I work with other people, how I manage myself in the workplace and occasionally steer me away from choice words in emails. If you have an opportunity to be mentored do not pass it up, I am finding it extremely valuable and its great that people are willing to take the time to help you, something I will always remember in the future.

Into 2015…

I won’t deny it, I nearly didn’t carry on on the SYP events team. My reasons were exactly the same as the ones I highlighted at the beginning of this post! Mainly can’t be bothered, but again, that really is a poor attitude! So I’m back on the events team, a few new faces in the team and on the committee. More events to plan and more new people to meet. I’m sure this year will be as exciting and fulfilling as the last one. We are already hard at work on our first event of the year (and our most popular one) Career Speed Dating, so check it out. Come down and say hello, you never know who you might meet or where that new encounter might take you.

Follow the link to our February event, could be the makings of your career:
http://thesyp.org.uk/event/careers-speed-dating/

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My favourite Christmas books…. And films

It has come to the point in the year where everything starts to get a little bit colder and a little bit twinkly. December nights get booked up for festive parties and friend get togethers that you’ve been planning to do all year, but haven’t quite got round to. We warm ourselves with mulled wine, hot chocolate and ample servings of pigs in blankets. At least I do, so it must be close to Christmas! With that in mind I thought I would share some of my favourite Christmas books. Most of them have been with me for 20 years, read each Christmas without fail to maintain the Christmas tradition and nostalgia of Christmas as a six year old.

The first few still reside at my parent’s house and I’ve had to get my mum to assist me with photos. In 20 days time I’ll be back in Cornwall and these cherished titles will be read for the 21st (probably) time.

JolllyChristmasPostmanThe Jolly Christmas Postman – Janet & Allan Ahlberg
I don’t think this one needs a introduction. A Christmas version of the famous Postman, he delivers all the Christmas cards to the lovable fairy tale characters.

 

 

 

Blackberry FarmChristmas at Blackberry Farm
Bought for me, second hand, by my parents, because the cat who lives on Blackberry farm was named after our cat George. Sadly these titles are now out of print.

 

 

Father Christmas, Raymond Briggs – A Christmas classic in a tiny format. (One of my favs). Father Christmas

 

 

 

 

The Good Little Christmas Tree – Moray Williams

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Mog’s Christmas – Judith Kerr

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The Christmas Mystery – Jostein Gaarder

If you haven’t got your advent calendar yet, or you want something different to the traditional chocolates or festive pictures, then I would highly recommend this title. 25 Chapters, a chapter a day as advent progresses. I was probably eleven when I read it last, and I should probably read it again, as I don’t remember much, but don’t let my poor memory put you off.

http://www.hive.co.uk/book/the-christmas-mystery/6340603/


Films

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It’s a Wonderful Life

Father Christmas

The Snowman

White Christmas

Celebrate Christmas with Mickey, Donald & Friends

 

Favourite Christmas Album

 

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(excuse the layout of this blog post, no matter what I do, it always looks wrong on the actual post, to the draft)

Amazon Feud(s) is Making Way for New and Improved Independent Online Bookshops

A nice summary of the Amazon vs Hachette dispute in the US and reasons why we should all be supporting our local independents. I haven’t shopped on Amazon in over a year, I don’t even think about checking the site when I want to buy something. I always look elsewhere. Check out the list of alternative sites where you can buy your books. If you insist on cheap books, go to your local supermarket. Forget Amazon.

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Watching Amazon fight with Hachette was starting to feel like watching your parents fight – you can’t take sides because as a book lover they both offer you different, but highly valuable, services. Plus they’re grown-ups, and they should really know better. As the saga has gone on, and Amazon has made more and more enemies both in and outside of the publishing industry, they now seem less like the ugly side of a justifiable battle, and more like the playground thug out to steal everyone’s lunch money. It only adds to this image when Amazon’s people respond like infants (see their famous George Orwell misquote in an open letter to ‘readers’) and throw tantrums which manifest in the removal of certain books and pre-order buttons, and generally making life miserable for the authors and their customers.

And that is the saddest side of the whole debacle. Amazon’s monopolising, money-grabbing…

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A Misspent Childhood: Books I Wish I’d Read as a Child, and Well-Loved Books Worth Revisiting

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IMG_20140826_210620Recently the memory of a book I was given as a child by my Dad re-emerged while I was telling a colleague an anecdote. He loves classical history, and I mentioned this obscure book that I had been given when I was around 11 or 12, that I don’t believe I fully understood at the time. I was edging my way into more adult literature around this time, and one day my Dad handed me The Night Life of the Gods by Thorne Smith – something he had read as a child and loved. His copy was well worn, proof of his affection for it 30 years earlier, and as any child might I idolised my father and took on his recommendation. I have a strong recollection of thumbing the fragile pages while we were on an excessively long holiday in California, sitting in the back of a rental car…

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Top Ten Tuesday – Top ten books people have been telling me I must read

toptentuesdayMy good friend over at prettybooks recommended that I do a Top Ten Tuesday blog post, hosted by Broke and the Bookish, if I am unsure about what to post. As my blog is still very new to me, and I am not a prolific writer/blogger I thought I would give it a go.

So this week Top Ten Tuesdays theme is: ‘Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read (whether because they think it’s a “you” book or it’s just been generally recommended so often)’ Here it goes, in no particular order:

1) The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

One of my close friend’s favorite books, for well over two years he has been telling me I must read this, I’ve managed to get a step closer by buying a copy, but it is still on my very long ‘to read’ list.

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2) American Gods – Neil Gamian

Same friend – kindly gave me a signed copy addressed to me by the man himself.

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3) Stoner – John Williams

A few people have recommended this to me. Have a copy on loan from a work colleague who started it, but found it hard going. Intrigued by the mixed reviews.

 

4) Before I Go to Sleep – S J Watson

Work colleague and everyone. Have to read it before I go and see the film. Boyfriend has a copy, he hasn’t read it either.

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5) My Cousin Rachel – Daphne Du Maurier

A friend and I share a love of Daphne Du Maurier. My Cousin Rachel is her favorite, so has recommended it. Need to get a copy.

 

6) Submarine – Joe Dunthorne

Another one that has been sitting on my shelf for a long time. Recommended by an old uni friend

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7) Gormenghast Trilogy – Mervyn Peake

Had this one for a couple of years, another friend recommended it, having been given it as a Christmas present. Randomly around the same time I had discovered the BBC adaptation and watched it pretty much back to back.

 

8) To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

One of those novels that is on everyone’s must read list. Friends are still shocked that I haven’t read it yet, and keep insisting that I do.

 

9) The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

Everyone seems to be raving about it generally and though not a direct recommendation, I do really want to read it!

 

10) Hush Hush series – Becca Fitzpatrick

Okay, so this could be seen as a biased choice (and more than one book), but a very close friend loves these books and keeps telling me to read them! (Even before I started working for the publisher).

I’m sure there are many more that have been recommended, but I will forget as ultimately there are too many books!

 

Review – I’ll Never Be Young Again – Daphne Du Maurier

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Having surprised myself by how much I love reading Daphne Du Maurier novels, after first reading Rebecca, I’ve set about devouring her list. On this occasion I settled down to read I’ll Never Be Young Again, Du Maurier’s second novel, at the age of 23, and her first attempt at the male narrative voice. Having settled down to it, it unfortunately took me over a month to read it. Unlike her later novels she didn’t capture my attention. I couldn’t warm to the characters Dick and Jake. Dick, annoyingly whiny, is taken under his wing by Jake, when Jake saves him from committing suicide. In his early twenties he has the fickleness of youth and goes with Jake on a journey; a journey which you would probably describe today, as a going ‘to find yourself’ journey or a gap year. He is free of care and troubles and lives for day to day, following Jake on various endeavours, until an incident with a ship. Without the guidance of Jake he makes his way to Paris, unsure of what he will do. It is while he is in Paris that he writes to his father, in the hope that he can, now slightly older, build a relationship with him. His father sends him £500.

Dick was at his most annoying, when he reached Paris, whereupon he struck up a relationship with a girl of nineteen, Hesta. Hesta is very naive and quiet and manages to be persuaded by Dick to form a relationship with him. While throughout the novel we see Dick’s transformation unfold slowly, across two years, it is Hesta that transitions faster. Attributing the transformation to Dick, she becomes more self-possessed and confident. Casting off her music that she so diligently practised before, she starts to live life day to day, forgoing consequences. It is at this time that Dick has finally decided that he wants to settle down, realising that his youth is behind him and that he needs to start being consistent. While Hesta stays in Paris to pursue her youth, Dick returns to London (on account of his father’s death) to pursue the next chapter of his life.

While I mainly felt that reading this novel was a chore, it did redeem itself at the end, when Dick finally grew up and started taking responsibility for his life. Though, I still remained unsympathetic to his character and to all the characters in the book. Bearing in mind that this was Du Maurier’s second novel, it is still eloquently written and I cannot get over the fact that she was only 23! It is clear that she was born with genius, unlike Dick, who would be an ‘ordinary man’. I’ll Never Be Young Again resonated with me, as looking back over my time at university, I can relate to Dick’s carefree attitude to a certain extent. Though now I am more inclined towards the feelings of settling down, consistency and routine. I’ll Never Be Young Again is not my favourite Du Maurier novel, it has certainly made me think more about youth and the loss of it.


 

Published by Virago Modern Classics

£7.99