Frances Kroll Ring was Scott Fitzgerald's secretary for the last 18 months of his life, a period when he was struggling to revive an all-but-dead career, write a novel, keep his daughter in the best schools, and Zelda at the best mental clinics. His books were out of print, and he was regarded by the literary community as a pathetic relic of the Jazz Age, an era he'd christened with that title.
The young, bright, somewhat naive Frances Kroll took dictation as Scott worked to construct "The Last Tycoon", but also helped him with the daily details of his life, including discarding burlap sacks of empty gin bottles. She grew to know the man: his frailties, flaws, and the powerful talent he still possessed. It is clear that she never lost respect for him, and acquired a view of life and creativity that continued to inspire and serve her well into her 90's.
This is not a sad tale of a broken man. It is an inspiring look at a great writer working as hard as he could to recapture the literary success he'd known so young. We see him, warts and all, but we share Frances Kroll Ring's respect and admiration for Fitzgerald. And the unfinished manuscript of "The Last Tycoon" could not have had a better custodian than Miss Kroll. The highly esteemed critic and Fitzgerald's friend, Edmund Wilson, listened to her suggestions about the publication of the unfinished work, and though it is tragic that Fitzgerald did not live to complete it, it left the literary world with a potent sense of, as Garrison Keillor stated, a writer "dying with his boots on".
I found myself thinking about this book for days after devouring it. It is beautifully written, leaving you with a sense of having shared time with a sensitive, gentle spirit who has chosen to recall a profoundly important and moving time from her distant past.