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 Fowler. I 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.
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/