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.
Back when I was my students' age in 10th grade honor's English, my English teacher Mrs. Allen assigned us to read The Great Gatsby. I fell in love. I loved everything that Fitzgerald wrote, from the way he developed his characters, to the way he used beautiful language to capture a time in history that I had never before studied. Because I loved Gatsby so much, I learned a little bit about Fitzgerald's life. So I had heard about his "crazy" wife Zelda who tried to bring about his literary downfall... and wasn't too pumped to read a novel in her defense.
When I'm wrong, I'll admit I'm wrong. I was wrong. I LOVED reading a novel in her defense. After reading Fowler's depiction of Zelda and of Scott, it's safe to assume that they brought about each other's downfall. They were two of a kind and wore each other out. Fowler does an excellent job of blending fact and fiction. The glimpses she gives us of other famous celebrities of the time are refreshing and... well, fun. She describes Hemingway's lady-killer attitude, but also hints at a homosexual interest in Scott. There are also delightful cameos by Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, etc.
Overall, I would have to say that I truly enjoyed reading this window (albeit fictitious) into the Fitzgeralds' lives. It definitely kicked my Fitzgerald juices into high gear and urged me to finally get around to reading Tender Is The Night, which has been on my reading list since I was 16. So thank you, Ms. Fowler.