Z: A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD
Therese Anne Fowler
St. Martin’s Press, New York
Ms. Hen decided to read this novel because she enjoys fiction about mental illness, and also about writers. Z is about Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. He was famous for writing THE GREAT GATSBY, as well as many other books. She was a southern debutante, whose heart was stolen by Scott when he was a lieutenant in the Army stationed near her home in Montgomery, Alabama.
There are different ideas about Scott and Zelda’s relationship. Some people say she prohibited him from doing his work, but some say the opposite about him. Zelda was a wild young woman who got whisked away to New York. She didn’t agree to marry Scott until his book was about to be published, because she didn’t want to have to work, because no respectable married woman would ever have to work, as she was taught from a very young age. But she changed her mind as she learned more about the world.
Scott and Zelda lead a life of debauchery in New York, Paris, the Riviera and Hollywood. They were known as The Jazz Age couple. He wrote novels about flappers, and they life he and Zelda lived. He drinks himself into a stupor most every night, but somehow he manages to write. They rub elbows with all the important people in Paris: Picasso, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein and the young up-and-coming writer Ernest Hemmingway. Zelda begins to hate Ernest because she thought he considered himself too much of a manly man. That, and an incident between the two of them outside a bar in Paris. She doesn’t want her husband to be like Hemmingway; she thought Scott was too sensitive to be like his friend.
Z is written in the voice of a southern lady. At first, Ms. Hen found it hard to get into, but she got used to it after a while. She was reminded of books by F. Scott Fitzgerald in which all the characters behave badly and have no regard for money, the future, or anyone beside themselves. Ms. Hen found it difficult to love this novel because most of the characters are highly unlikeable. The novel is written well, and the plot is well executed, but she found that she would not like to have a cup of coffee with any of the characters because she would want to punch them in the face. But that is her opinion.
The most disturbing part of this novel is when Zelda is in the psychiatric hospital in Switzerland. She is sent there because she has a breakdown since she spent all her time training to be a ballet dancer. The doctors try to reprogram her and force her to admit that a woman’s place is taking care of her husband and her children and if she dreams of a career outside of the home, it will only cause her agony and illness.
Ms. Hen is disgusted by this treatment of Zelda. She knew that the world was a different place in years past, but to force women to transform their thinking in this way is despicable. She knows that a lot of people glamorize the 1920s and the past, but Ms. Hen would never want to live in the past! Just because the people seemed like they had fun, and went to wild parties and wore beautiful clothes, it doesn’t mean that the world was a wonderful place. It was a terrible place.
Ms. Hen liked Z, but she didn’t love it. She felt sorry for the characters, and she’s glad she doesn’t have to live their lives. F. Scott Fitzgerald died at the age of 44, practically penniless. Zelda lived for many years after that, and struggled financially for most of that time. F. Scott Fitzgerald has become one of the great American novelists of all time. Ms. Hen gives Z four feathers up.