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Monday, July 22, 2013

"Z~A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" by Therese Anne Fowler~Celebrates Zelda


I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we’re ruined, Look closer…and you’ll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true. We have never been what we seemed.

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. 


Published by:  St. Martin's Press
Pages:  384
Genre:  Historial Fiction
Author:  Therese Anne Fowler
Website:  Therese Anne Fowler
Where you can click on a disc to hear an excerpt!


Therese Anne Fowler (pronounced ta-reece) is the third child and only daughter of a couple who raised their children in Milan, Illinois. An avowed tomboy, Therese thwarted her grandmother’s determined attempts to dress her in frills–and, to further her point, insisted on playing baseball despite her town having a perfectly good girls’ softball league. Thanks to the implementation of Title IX legislation and her father’s willingness to fight on her behalf, Therese became one of the first girls in the U.S. to play Little League baseball.
Her passion for baseball was exceeded only by her love of books. A reader since age four, she often abused her library privileges by keeping favorite books out just a little too long. When domestic troubles led to unpleasant upheaval during her adolescence, the Rock Island Public Library became her refuge. With no grounding in Literature per se, she made no distinction between the classics and modern fiction. Little Women was as valued as The Dead Zone. A story’s ability to transport her, affect her, was the only relevant matter.
Therese married at eighteen, becoming soon afterward a military spouse (officially referred to at the time as a “dependent spouse”). With customary spirit, she followed her then-husband to Texas, then to Clark Air Base in the Philippines–where, because of politics, very few military spouses could find employment. Again, books came to her rescue as the base library became her home-away-from-home and writers such as Jean Auel, Sidney Sheldon, and Margaret Atwood brought respite from boredom and heat.
Her own foray into writing came years later, after a divorce, single parenthood, enrollment in college, and remarriage. A chance opportunity during the final semester of her undergrad program led to her writing her first short story, and she was hooked. Having won an essay contest in third grade and seen her writing praised by teachers ever since, she knew she could put words on paper reasonably well. This story, however, was her first real attempt at fiction. Her professor told her she had a knack for it, thus giving her the permission to try she hadn’t known she was waiting for.
After an intensive five-year stint that included one iffy-but-completed novel followed by graduate school, some short-fiction awards, an MFA in creative writing, teaching undergraduates creative writing, and a second completed novel that led to literary representation, Therese was on the path to a writing career. It would take three more novels (all of which are published) and a great lot of new reading, though, before she began to grasp Literature properly–experience proving to be the best teacher.
The inspiration to tell Zelda’s story came unbidden, on a day when Therese was contemplating entirely different story ideas. Believing Zelda to be little more than “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s crazy, disruptive wife,” she was skeptical of the idea. But when a quick web search revealed that Therese’s mother and Zelda had both passed away in the overnight hours of the same date, March 10th (though in different years), Therese was compelled to explore the idea further–and then, seeing how wrong she’d been about Zelda, write a story that would, she hoped, bring a maligned, talented, troubled woman the justice she deserves. When Z sold first to a publisher in London on the 10th of April–the date The Great Gatsby was published in 1925–Therese had to think it was fate.
Therese has two grown sons and currently lives in North Carolina.

Listen to an excerpt of the novel below:



For nearly 40 years I have been completely fascinated with Zelda Fitzgerald.  I read the Nancy Mitford biography, "Zelda" when it first came out years ago.  And I hardily recommend it to you, as an aside to this book review. 

I wanted to fall in love with this novel because I love Zelda so much!  Right up front I admit to some strong mixed feelings.  While the book gave an enthusiastic run at the details of Zelda and Scott's life in the fast lane, the many encounters with the rich and famous, and their personal struggles throughout their rough and tumble marriage, it read mostly like a biography and less like the novel I was hoping for.  It was dry and often slow even for a biography. 

I was hoping for an exciting, fast-moving read that would hold my attention and make me feel the thrill of Zelda with her scathing personality, her unconventional and exotic lure, and her dive into creativity and madness.  What was given in this novel was a plodding story resting carefully on the facts of the Fitzgerald's lives, along with some thoughtful embellishments that had really no feeling or heart.  Such a disappointment.  It lacked empathy with the characters. They were practically one dimensional.

What kept me reading to the end was the specific hope that we'd eventually get to the culmination of Zelda's life and her emotional breakdown in some detail.  But, even that fell flat and anticlimactic.

While I think the intellectual pursuit of this book was probably a good one, it just didn't translate into an engaging and enjoyable historical fiction.  It stands on the edge of boring.  I had to really push myself through it...and I don't like to do that. 

All in all, I find it difficult to rate this book.  It's a good one for a biographical study, I suppose.  But, it wasn't a historical fiction that was enjoyable to read; falling flat and leaving the reader very dissatisfied in the end.  The writer would have been better off simply to write the clear biography, in my humble opinion.

3 stars              Deborah/TheBookishDame



I heard Fowler speak about this books so I had high hopes for it. Sorry you didn't love it.


I have been obsessed with the Fitzgeralds ever since I first read The Great Gatsby my junior year of high school. I actually enjoyed this historical fiction account of Zelda's life. I think most of the history was accurate, and I enjoyed the first-person view. For me, it was a fun summer read!


Thanks for your perspective, Cheryl. I think it's always good to have different readers share. Let me recommend "Call Me Zelda" a novel by Erika Robuck as another book to try this summer. I think you'll love it.

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