In 1918, as World War I was drawing to a close in Europe, the privileged seventeen-year-old Zelda Sayre met a handsome young writer, army lieutenant F. Scott Fitzgerald who, as author of The Great Gatsby, would become perhaps the best-known writer of the so-called Jazz age.
Therese Anne Fowler’s novel is a beautifully-written fictional account of the Fitzgerald’s marriage told from Zelda’s point of view. It captures the creativity and intelligence of a bright and brilliant young couple whose turbulent relationship was battered by alcohol and financial pressures as well as creative tensions.
After the inital chapters, the story picks up pace when the Fitzgeralds move to Europe and begin to mix with the literary and artistic community in Paris in the 1920s. Among the famous names that they encounter are Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway, the latter of whom would become a destructive force in the young couple’s relationship.
The parallels between the Fitzgeralds’ lifestyle and Gatsby’s are many and Therese Anne Fowler spins an engrossing and believeable tale that is richly imagined both as an account of the time and as an insight into the mind and motivation of a troubled and misunderstood young woman.
Zelda feels the constraints of being a creative and ambitious artist and writer at a time when feminism was still in its infancy and that leads to tension in her relationship with her husband particularly as she wrote some of the stories that were published under his name. If Z has a weakness it is, perhaps, that Scott does not really come to life on its pages but Zelda more than makes up for it in a thoughtful, atmospheric novel that is an enjoyable and entertaining read.
Z : A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler is published by St Martin’s Press, 2013. ISBN 9781250028655. An advance reader’s copy was provided via netgalley.com for the purpose of this review.