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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 10 September 2015
This book is a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald and a look at the marriage between Zelda and F. Scott. It was interesting and distressing and certainly the last part of her life was very sad. She was a woman of her times in many ways and "her times" included misogynistic attitudes to women, rudimentary mental health care (and knowledge) and a legal system that saw woman as the chattels of their husbands. What started out as a passionate and love filled relationship finished up as the opposite. I didn't know much about either of the Fitzgeralds, although I knew their work, but this book portrays them as unlovely and destructive. It shines a light on the start of the 20th century through to the thirties, and looks at their interaction with that periods celebrities like Cole Porter, Picasso and Hemmingway among others.
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on 20 May 2017
I really enjoyed this book. it's a great insight into the flapper era and how those with money, and artistic talents, lived. Interesting.
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on 6 November 2016
It was interesting to see how young women like Zelda were tapping in to changing attitudes which seemed scary to an older generation, and just how far attitudes progressed, before seeing a regression in the decade that followed it, as economic hardship reined in liberal openness and fear encouraged a return to traditional values. The first half of Z captured this zeitgeist, not to mention the astonishing splash-out spending that was characteristic of the time. The first half of the book is carried by the fascination of getting swept up in the tide of the 1920s.

In the second half Z goes deeper and by the end it’s clear that the novel is in fact a tragedy. It isn’t obvious in the first half, but the overarching theme is one of optimism and integrity unravelling. And like any good tragedy, it’s sad because it all stems from the preventable mistakes of essentially good people and their failure to navigate through life’s big questions – self-identity, personal motivation, self-control and empowerment. Z really stayed with me some time after turning the last page not because it was satisfying, but because it was unsatisfying, because it goes so horribly wrong for this golden couple and they never found a way to overcome or fix their problems.

A comment on a few other points; the thing about 20th century historical fiction, as opposed to earlier time sets, is the astonishing wealth of detail available to the writer. Fowler stresses that she creates and speculates about certain private conversations and motivations, but much of the detail of their whereabouts, letters, and lives, are available to us from a wealth of evidence. And despite Fowler’s filling in of the gaps being speculation, she does so extrapolating from the evidence so much so that I feel that the portrait presented here could be accurate. Could be – it may not be, but it does feel plausible as a possible rendering of events. As for Fowler’s writing style, I can’t find much to say, because there’s really nothing to criticise. It has a kind of precision to it, almost a sparingness. It’s not spartan or functional as such – far from it – but I got the impression that it was very carefully crafted, and that the use of linguistic flair is judicious, so that what we get is Zelda’s “voice”; using ordinary, functional language frequently, but once in a while coming out with a certain turn of phrase, spirit, and way of looking at the world that encapsulates Zelda’s quixotic appeal.

All in all, although the subject matter isn’t usually my cup of tea, this book drew me in, and solid writing combined with a very well-done tale of tragedy, and I think a successful capturing of the spirit of the age and the key characters involved, I would say this is an enjoyable read that I recommend.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
This is the fictional story of Zelda Fitzgerald's life, as she looks back on her girlhood in Alabama, her meeting with husband F. Scott Fitzgerald and the early excitement of their marriage - which descends into resentment, alcohol abuse and recriminations. I have always loved F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels and, as this story is told from Zelda's viewpoint, it presents an often unsympathetic portrait of him. Opinion is divided as to whether it was Zelda who caused problems in the marriage and Scott's writing career, or Scott who was to blame for Zelda's later mental health issues. The truth is probably that they both held some blame, but this is a novel and the author certainly creates a sympathetic character in Zelda.

We follow the young Scott and Zelda as they become the original celebrity couple, tasting early success and fame in New York, to the shattered illusions of later life. On the way there is uncertainty, tragedy, debt and lots of lots of parties. Much of the most interesting parts of the book deals with their life in Paris and the meeting with Hemingway which changes their life, and relationship, forever. If this period interests you, you might well enjoy The Paris Wife, which tells the story of Hemingway's first wife, and has a similar feel to this novel. Overall, this is a very interesting tale, about a fascinating and beautiful woman who deserves to be remembered as more than Mrs Fitzgerald and which I enjoyed immensely.
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VINE VOICEon 10 April 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am a huge fan of F Scott Fitzgerald, and have always been fascinated with the relationship between himself and Zelda. Their complex relationship makes for great reading, they were a fascinating couple who both had their own personal demons to contend with.

In Z Therese Anne Fowler has produced a fictional account of the life of Zelda and Scott and has produced a wonderful novel. It reminded me of The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain, which deals with Ernest Hemingways marriage to Hadley Richardson, where Hadley shines out of the novel, and in fact Zelda and Scott appear. Here it's Zelda who takes centre stage, and we are given an insight into her life as a wife, mother and an artist/writer whose star was clouded by that of her husband. As many biographers and critics have suggested as well as Fowler, people tend to either believe that Zelda destroyed Scott's life or that infact it was the other way around and that it was Scott who ruined hers.

Z is a great read showing how two people who came together, became iconic figures of the 20th century due to his incredible talent and due to the tragedy of their lives fascinated and captivated all who followed.
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on 22 June 2013
I loved that the book was written from the perspective of Zelda Fitzgerald and showed the societal barriers to women having a creative life in their own right. It was chilling to read that her ambitions as a dancer were blamed for her mental distress rather than the fact that she was offered an amazing opportunity to be a lead ballerina and had to turn it down because of jealous opposition from her husband. She was prepared to defy him but could have lost her daughter because of the law which favoured the father in the event of disputes over custody and even access. I felt it was a thoughtful as well as exciting book. It also showed the tragedy of creative lives ruined by alcohol addiction.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
My Fitzgerald fascination began almost 30 years ago as a student when I read The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise and Tender is the Night swiftly followed up by Nancy Milford's excellent biography of Zelda. This new novelisation of Zelda's life is perfectly timed to coincide with the latest movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby and will hopefully stir more interest in this flawed but fascinating couple.

On the surface Zelda seems like a spoiled Southern gal with a taste for the finer things in life but she isn't a celebrity bimbo and underneath that sparkling flapper exterior lurks a razor sharp intellect. Her struggle to reconcile playing the dutiful wife whilst suppressing her creative urges is documented in this meticulously researched novel. The author does an excellent job of capturing Zelda's voice as she narrates the tortuous story of her life with Fitzgerald, the good times and the bad, her stays in asylums, his battle with the bottle, their scintillating social life with the rich and famous including Hemmingway who never clicked with Zelda.

As well as being Zelda's personal story this is an excellent representation of the highs and lows of the Jazz Age - it was such an exhilirating time for writers, especially those of the Lost Generation - Zelda regularly socialised with Hemmingway, TS Eliot, Dos Passos, Ezra Pound as well as Picasso and Jean Cocteau. In this novel you get a real feel for the life of those ex-pats in France and their hedonism after the spectre of the Great War.

If you think Paris Hilton is the archetypal modern Flapper, then perhaps you should read this novel and learn from the original and the best.
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VINE VOICEon 6 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Z, is a compelling novel about the life and rip roaring times of Zelda Sayre, the wife of writer Scott Fitzgerald. Therese Anne Fowler has brilliantly brought to her life in this fictionalised account, highlighting this icon of the"Jazz Age." Let's face it, her life was not a quiet one and the author has been able to mine some rich seams of stories, which in real life involved jealousy, infidelity, alcoholism, mental illness and betrayal.

Written in a first person narrative, it absolutely crackles along, taking in the glamorous locations of Paris, Rome and New York, mingles with famous writers and artists, all set against the backdrop of her marriage to Fitzgerald, who is writing some of the most widely appreciated novels in literature. Zelda is portrayed as a person with considerable charm, sex appeal, humour and ambition.

Fowler creates a persuasive voice, and has the feel of Zelda telling you the story in the chair opposite and what a story it is as she allows you to glimpse the parties, listen to the gossip, and experience the emotions of her turbulent marriage.

Therese Anne Fowler has written an enchanting and compelling novel and I highly recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although this is a novel, it seems from the amount of research the writer has carried out, it could almost be a biography. Zelda is a fascinating woman in her own right and Fowler certain succeeds in presenting a woman who is larger than life.

Zelda loves life and most of all she loves Scott Fitzgerald and he obviously loves her although in later life there are times when he is not so sure. Zelda meets him as a young girl who in many ways reminds me of Scarlet in Gone with the Wind. She knows her own mind and manages to achieve most of what she wants although in her later years, this is not always the case.

The excitement of their early married life in Paris and summers in the South of France and the many exciting people they meet almost reads like a Who's Who at that time - Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Nancy Mitford, Winston Churchill, etc. And then there is the tragedy when Zelda and Scott find themselves in the unhappy position of trying to become parents and how difficult Zelda finds it to get pregnant. And all this time they are living the high life.

When Zelda starts to write her own stories, Scott has them printed under his name as he will get a higher price than she will. And then Zelda starts to paint and begin ballet lessons, which she takes very seriously to the point of not eating and spending all her time practising and not looking after herself.

Scott is worried and sends Zelda to a clinic in Switzerland where it seems that the doctors believe that a major part of her problem is that she is mad as she is not devoted to her husband and does not `create a secure hearth and a tether for her husband'. The doctors then decide she has been re-educated and could enter the world again but on their conditions. I particularly found this section of the book fascinating and it is difficult for me to imagine that doctors could believe this.

Some may say that the marriage of Scott and Zelda was a tragedy waiting to happen but there were obviously many high points in their life together and who are we to judge...

Review by Shirleyanne Seel.
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VINE VOICEon 17 March 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Zelda Sayre is a vivid eighteen-year-old from Montgomery, Alabama, always the life of the party, when she meets F. Scott Fitzgerald. The youngest in her family, Zelda loves being the center of attention, and Scott is happy to put her at the focal point of his universe - for a time. As an aspiring author, but simultaneously a man who enjoys having fun, Scott is torn between numerous passions in a way that isn't clear to Zelda when they meet. When they marry, they're both certain that their lives are going to be full of success and love, with no perception of just what might happen when two vivid personalities clash.

I knew very little about Zelda Fitzgerald before I started reading this book. I had heard before that she had held back Scott's career and that she'd been in a mental institution; I'd also read somewhere that she and Scott loved each other despite the difficulties. This book gave me a lot of insight, I felt, into the kind of woman Zelda might have been, and went a long way towards explaining how two people can love each other an absurd amount and yet hate each other at the exact same time.

The novel starts with Zelda as a young, impressionable teenager who meets Scott and completely falls for him, a Northerner with ambitions completely different from any that the boys she knows have. They quickly marry and the book spans the rest of their lives up until Scott's death, so we get an insight as to how Zelda may have felt about all of his achievements, including his lack of them at times.

What I also really appreciated was that the novel gets across how Zelda might have felt as the wife of a man who was famous. She suffers hugely from a lack of her own identity, which made perfect sense to me; how would an ambitious, talented girl feel when she's constantly shuffled to the side? I can't imagine now, for myself, living in a time where my only duty was to keep house for my husband, simply because I'm not the sort of person who would be happy pouring all of my effort into someone else's life without any real recognition of my own. This is especially true for Zelda, who watches as her husband spends the hours he's meant to be working with a bottle in his hand, and who feels that she's lost her own identity to support his. Her struggles were so clearly understandable to me and I could feel their mutual frustration pouring out of the pages. What's heartbreaking about this book is that it's also obvious that they do love each other, but it's a destructive kind of love that is powerful but takes something huge out of both of them.

I also hadn't realized that Zelda was a creative force in her own right, painting, writing, and dancing in a way that might have brought her recognition on her own. Perhaps not if she'd never met Scott, but once she has a foothold in the creative world, she keeps on going. She had her own art exhibitions and she was invited to dance professionally; she even had her own published novel and short stories. I had never had any idea, and now I'm actually very curious to read the fictional accounts, on both sides, of their marriage.

A wonderful book that brought a historical figure to life for me, Z is a spellbinding read. Highly recommended.
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