I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, but not much writing about my reading. The last novel I finished was so remarkable that I couldn’t pass up the chance to mention it on the blog, so after extended silence, I’m back with a review!
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is the story of a Montgomery-born girl who goes on to lead a life of glamour and heartache alongside F. Scott Fitzgerald, her husband and the author of The Great Gatsby. After marrying, their whirlwind life begins with a nonstop flurry of cocktail parties and travels abroad. While Scott does see some success with his writing over the years, the lifestyle is never steady and the fame – much like their relationship – seems tenuous at best.
Zelda is a writer in her own right (but all of her works were published under a joint byline with Scott’s name at his insistence), and she also pursues art and dance to a semi-professional level. However, this story takes place in the 1920s and 1930s, a time when any ambitions beyond that of her family and home were seen as detrimental to Scott’s success. Zelda becomes increasingly frustrated by her circumstances as time goes on, and by the end of the novel, we see the effects of all of the years she spent living in the shadow of Scott.
Despite the fact that this novel takes place almost a century ago, the themes and questions it raises remain relevant. I found myself wondering whether our world is quite as different and progressive as we’d like to believe, and whether or not the challenges we face today are the same challenges people (and women in particular) faced 100 years ago. It also made me see history through a different lens. So many of Scott’s greatest ideas are to Zelda’s credit, and yet many people today have never heard her name. How many accomplishments in the past are wrongly attributed, and what would women’s lives look like today if they’d been given their due at the time?
The story is based on known facts about Zelda and Scott’s life, but the author focuses on the emotions involved more than the objective details. This made it an entertaining and entrancing novel and I found myself fully enveloped in their world whenever I cracked the cover. The characters and their lives are fully developed and at some point you’ll forget that you aren’t attending the many cocktail parties yourself. Cheers to a great and thought-provoking book!
Rating: 4/5 stars
Stats: 375 pages
Recommended for: Anyone interested in women’s roles throughout history or with a penchant for the flapper era. If you like Gatsby, you’ll get a good dose of that in this novel, where art meets life in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time.
Up Next: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer