Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Digital Audiobook narrated by Janna Lamia
Published by Macmillan Audio on April 2nd 2013
Genres: Historical, Historical Fiction
Length: 375 pages or 12 hours, 36 minutes
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When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the "ungettable" Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn't wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner's, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick's Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.
What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.
Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby's parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott's, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda's irresistible story as she herself might have told it.
I’ve always been fascinated by the 1920s and intrigued by the Fitzgeralds in particular, but this was a the first piece of writing I’ve every picked up related to them (other than, like everyone else, The Great Gatsby). I snagged this book on Audible last May and well, here we are.
I loved it.
I want to start with the narrator. In many of my reviews, the narrator is a last-minute thought. Not here. Jenna Lamia is excellent. Her reading is smooth and rich. Her accents shift beautifully. There is a smattering of French in this book: her pronunciation is flawless and flows. I cannot praise her reading enough. I think that even if I found this book boring, she would have made it interesting. Incidentally, she was also one of the narrators on The Help and she’s the reader for The Secret Life of Bees, so I’m thrilled to have more books done by her already sitting in my library .
On to the story itself:
Zelda is often characterized in popular culture as the ultimate wildchild. She was a wanton alcoholic, a scandalous dancer, and a frivolous girl. This story, although ultimately fiction, makes me put all that into question. Who, really, was Zelda Fitzgerald? Fowler’s story gives her two legs to stand on beside Scott, rather than being swept alongside his crazy river.
Fowler transitions so smoothly from a dreamy teenager to an overwhelmed young adult to a troubled and abandoned wife (Zelda’s hated word). It shows the bad in Zelda – her drinking and jealousy and self-destruction. But it also shows the good in her – passion, love, artistry.
I loved it. The writing was beautiful, Zelda was vivacious even at her worst. All the stars.