Zelda Sayre was a beautiful, devil may care Southern belle of seventeen when she first met ambitious budding novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1917. As his star rose with the publication of a series of popular, and sometimes shocking novels, like “This Side of Paradise,” and “The Great Gatsby” the now married couple became the darlings of the madcap Jazz Age, a world of bobbed hair and bathtub gin, speakeasies, hard drinking, dancing, and wild parties in New York, Paris, Hollywood, and on the Riviera, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, their wild doings chronicled in the scandal sheets to be lapped up by eager readers.
Zelda was often lost in the shadow of her more famous husband and the mental illness that affected her, her own accomplishments downplayed or denied, this novel gives Zelda back her voice, and shows her to be an intelligent and talented woman in her own right, a real person with hopes and dreams and feelings not just an idol of the decadent Roaring 20s or a woman who failed to measure up to her own, or others’ expectations. We see her as a loving wife who soon grows weary of a life of nonstop partying and wants something more, something real, which her husband seems incapable of giving her. Illness, alcohol, jealousy, professional insecurity, and outside influences, including adultery, and Ernest Hemingway, would all combine to drive a wedge between the two.
I loved this novel from page one and before I was even finished I bought a biography of Zelda. I give any historical novel that makes me curious to know the facts behind the fiction, and to get to know the real people behind the novelist’s interpretations of them, high marks. This one is a definite keeper I know I will look forward to reading again.