I just finished reading 'Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerld' by Therese Anne Fowler. I did not know anything about Zelda, but love reading historical fiction (specifically art history)—so I gave it a try. It tells the story of Zelda Sayre Fitgerald's life from the time she met her husband Scott in 1918 until his death in 1940—their courtship and marriage, their "Jazz Age" antics in New York, their life together in France, Scott's alcoholism and Zelda's mental health problems.
I had no clue that Zelda struggled with mental illness and during the book I was not sure if it was Scott trying to control her (by submitting her into psych wards) or if she had a legit illness. Reading further into the book it became very clear that she did have some mental issues, but for me it was a question of where they came from. Were Zelda's breakdowns caused by her failure to conform to expected female behavior and to the repression of her artistic potential by her insecure and abusive husband or was this something she was born with—a chemical imbalance? You think about celebrities today dealing with fame and it doesn't always go well. People say that the Fitzgerald's were the first "celebrity couple". I think it was a combination of things, as her brother committing suicide (which was just touched on) seemed a little too ironic for the family's history of mental illness.
The debate on whether Zelda ruined Scott's life or vice versa is not something Fowler addresses directly, but something you are definitely left pondering. I do not know enough about either to come to any conclusion, but I was left intrigued and would definitely read another book about the Fitzgerald's. I did find it very interesting that Scott took passages from Zelda's diary and often published her work under his name for financial reasons.
Over all I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading my next book: Luncheon of the Boating Party, by Susan Vreeland.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald | by: Therese Anne Fowler