“The Great Gatsby” is one of my all-time favorite books, so F. Scott Fitzgerald has long been a legendary name in my mind. I knew little of his character, however, and the life he led; was only well acquainted with Daisy Buchanan, Jay Gatsby, and Nick Carraway from his most acclaimed novel. So when scrolling through Amazon’s Original Series list and stumbling on “Z: The Beginning Of Everything,” I knew that I had no choice but dive into the lives of the Jazz Age power couple and find out more.
The series was outstanding and left me hungry for other accounts and tributes to The Fitzgeralds. My husband bought me “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” for Christmas and it quickly made its way to the top of my “must read” list.
Zelda was a Southern wild child growing up in the heart of Montgomery, Alabama, under the careful watch of her father, Supreme Court Justice “Judge” Anthony Dickson Sayre and mother Minnie, a respectable housewife. Their lives were orderly and sprinkled with proper socialite engagements, roots rich with old-world prominence and confederate ideals. Zelda was seen as a trailblazer to some, a disgrace to others, because although she danced ballet, volunteered, and was a good student, she rarely followed the rules or the opinions of the popular crowd.
One night she met Francis Scott at a ballet recital: He was a 21-year old army second lieutenant stationed at Camp Sheridan nearby, who asked her to dance and was smitten at first gaze. He promised her fame and fortune, told her that he was on the verge of becoming a literary sensation and once he did so, he’d ask her to be his bride. Zelda used that promise as a tool to push Scott toward his dream, turning him down and keeping him at arm’s length until he sold his first novel, “This Side of Paradise.”
The two had a whirlwind relationship: Passionate, turbulent, and sometimes downright toxic. But Scott and Zelda loved each other until the end despite their flaws and similar stubborn, destructive tendencies.
I personally fell in love with Zelda while reading the book: She was wildly misunderstood and was oftentimes left to wilt in the shadow of Scott, a theme that I have uncovered while reading other historical fiction novels depicting women in this particular time period. Zelda was an artist, writer, painter, dancer, and socialite who undoubtedly established the Roaring Twenties representation of a strong, liberated flapper, was an icon in her time. She was Scott’s greatest inspiration- he used her prose, her journal entries, and later her fully written works under his penname.
The author of “Z,” Anne Fowler, did an excellent job of showcasing Zelda as a multi-dimensional heroine, whose demise resulted from a lifetime of Fame’s poking and prodding, her husband’s constant push and pull, and her internal struggle to remain true to herself and find her own limelight, her own purpose.
FINAL SCORE: 4
BEST FOR: Literary lovers, historical fiction fanatics, flappers and feminists
NOT GOOD FOR: Those who are bored by historical accounts
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE: The misunderstood party girl.