Therese Anne Fowler's Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, was recommended to me by two people whose opinions I highly respect when it comes to historical novels, so I picked it up in hopes of not only a good read, but one that would give me a sense of who the real Zelda was. I got both, and have to say I'm truly enamored of this book.
Told in first person, we follow wild Zelda from the time she meets Scott Fitzgerald in 1918 through the time of his death in 1940. To say Zelda's headstrong and a forceful personality would be an understatement; falling in love with a character almost her personality twin was a recipe for disaster. Zelda is led to New York City and the wandering life of her writer husband; between the two of them, much alcohol is consumed and much wildness ensues. For a short time around the birth of her daughter, Zelda and Scott try to settle down, but the drive to write and the need to party overtakes both, and they find themselves living in Paris, no true roots for either. Zelda watches as Scott continuously tries to write, his self-doubt and inability to focus almost destroying them, but she is not blameless either. Moving from one place to the next, always looking for a good time, their lives truly begin to disintegrate when Scott strikes up an all-encompassing friendship with Ernest Hemingway. Zelda grows jealous; Hemingway grows disdainful; Scott sinks into alcohol. Things go from bad to worse when Zelda essentially has a breakdown and ends up in a sanitarium, the first of many. There will be no happy ending for the Fitzgeralds.
I did not know much about Zelda beyond the basics when I picked this novel up, but it feels as though Ms. Fowler has nailed her impetuousness and her manic ways perfectly. Reading the author's note, much of what appears is based on the facts of the arrogant, nomadic lifestyle of two creative forces colliding. Along the way, I grew to love Zelda for who she was, reveling in the author's well-written interpretation of a life lived fully but wasted nonetheless. Definitely a story for the ages, and a highly recommended read.