This is not a book that I'd characterize as "enjoyable." Athough ti will say, off the bat, it is very well-written, extensively researched, and well narrated.
I've been an ardent fan of both Fitzgeralds (I listen to Tim Robbins' beautiful narration of THE GREAT GATSBY at least once a year) since high school and have read almost everything each has written, including Scott's writer's notebooks. As a youth, I was entranced by the legendary love between Scott and Zelda. As I grew older and learned more, I became less enchanged with these icons of the Jass Age. "Z" pretty much made sure I'd never again hold these people in any kind of esteem--at least as people (as opposed to artists).
"Z" was exhaustively researched and it re-defines the common myth that Zelda was a self-centered, impetuous, mentally ill cyclone who took her husband along with her as she plummeted from Jazz Age darling to insitutionalized failure. This is the myth.
Fowler shows Zelda as the woman she actually was--artistic, beautiful, trend-setting, kind, and absolutely dominated by her pathologically insecure, relentlessly alcoholic husband. "Z" is also a reminder of how lucky I am to be a woman in today's world, as opposed to in Zelda's time, when a flapper could be independent and pursue dreams of her own--until she married, that is.
I now must confess I had a lot of trouble getting through this book, but not because it was poorly written or badly narrated. It was simply depressing. I'd put it down. And then find myself picking it back up, much like the old maxim about a train wreck you can't turn away from.
I was grateful to the author for the opilogue that allowed us to see Zelda find some recognition on her own through her paintings. If you are interested, there are several websites that showcase much of her art and one can see for oneself that she was, indeed, a talented woman.
Scott Fitzgerald comes out of this book as such a sorry human being. Talented, yes. But so driven toward his own place in literary history, he put his own name to short stories written exclusively by his wife. That is just one of the many terrible things he did to Zelda during their marriage. It was so sad to read about this stuff.
He's yet one more example that with great genius, often there comes great neuroses.
I like the fact that the legend of Scott and Zelda is put to rest and the truth is out. I am so glad to see Zelda get a hearing of sorts. I wonder what she might have achieved, had she been born in more liberated times--and had she been allowed to develop her many talents to their fullest.
I listened to Ms. Lamia's performance of THE HELP. Her narration of "Z" compares favorably. She has the Southern accent down pat. And she made me hate, despise, abhor Ernest Hemingway. Which is really saying a lot, if you know how much I love his work.
As mentioned above, I found this a tough book to read, simply because it relentlessly showcases two amazingly gifted people--who disintegrate in slow motion. It's just so sad.
An interesting read, in light of Baz Lurhman's renditio of THE GREAT GATSBY, due in theatres May 10.
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