Summary and book reviews of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

By Therese Fowler

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

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Book Summary

A dazzling novel that captures all of the romance, glamour, and tragedy of the first flapper, Zelda Fitzgerald.

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.

1

Picture a late-June morning in 1918, a time when Montgomery wore her prettiest spring dress and finest floral perfume—same as I would wear that evening. Our house, a roomy Victorian on Pleasant Avenue, was wrapped in the tiny white blooms of Confederate jasmine and the purple splendor of morning glories. It was a Saturday, and early yet, and cloudy. Birds had congregated in the big magnolia tree and were singing at top volume as if auditioning to be soloists in a Sunday choir.

From our back stairway's window I saw a slow horse pulling a rickety wagon. Behind it walked two colored women who called out the names of vegetables as they went. Beets! Sweet peas! Turnips! they sang, louder even than the birds.

"Hey, Katy," I said, coming into the kitchen. "Bess and Clara are out there, did you hear 'em?" On the wide wooden table was a platter covered by a dish towel. "Plain?" I asked hopefully, reaching beneath the towel for a biscuit.

"No, cheese—now, don't make that...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why do you think Zelda refused to marry Scott until he'd made a name for himself? Was she manipulating him?

  2. Zelda didn't seem to care how her parents felt about her unstable relationship with Scott and how it might ruin her reputation. Did they have a valid point, considering the time period?

  3. What do you think was behind Scott's alcoholism? Was it due to his rocky relationship with Zelda or did he drink to fit in with the crowd?

  4. How do you feel about Scott selling Zelda's short stories under both their names? Why wouldn't he let Zelda publish under her own name?

  5. Which of Zelda's talents were her strongest? Which would you most like to possess?

  6. Why did Scott insist on hiring strict nannies to care for...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Are you planning to see the new film adaptation of 'The Great Gatsby,' or have you already seen it?
I saw it last weekend. I thought it was amazing! To me, they totally nailed the spirit and themes of the book. - lisag

As you read "Z", have you approached it from a new perspective about an iconic couple from history or has your previous knowledge of the Fitzgerald's clouded your assestment of the novel?
Karenr, I like your point re: if Zelda had lived at a different time she may have had more opportunity to become a writer separate from her husband, to step out from under his shadow. I'm inclined to think there would have at least been a better ... - lisag

Aside from her initial allurement of Scott, what do you think first marked her inflatuation with him? To the brink that she wanted to be with him as he began his adventure towards a literary career?!
For me, her infatuation with him came from the fact that he was an outsider, from another town and so unlike the people she knew growing up. Therein lies the attraction. - dianac

Did Scott's treatment of Zelda while she was in hospital make him any more sympathetic to you?
Nothing in Scott's treatment of Zelda or anyone else would have made him more sympathetic to me. The book portrays him as an arrogant, egocentric, chauvinist who was also a raging alcoholic. - dianac

Did Zelda's parents have a valid point about her relationship with Scott, considering the time period?
As backward as her parents were in many ways, their point about Scott was spot on. They could see the train wreck before it happened. - dianac

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Reviews

BookBrowse

I absolutely loved Therese Ann Fowler’s charting of the Fitzgeralds’ relationship – the fairy-tale young love, the giddy first years of marriage, the gradual disillusionments piled richly one on top of the other, and the eventual complete unraveling of the relationship. It’s deeply tragic because both Scott and Zelda are so deeply talented yet so fundamentally flawed. Right until the end, you can sense their deep and abiding love of one another even as they become increasingly toxic for each other.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

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Media Reviews
Author Blurb Caroline Leavitt
A novel that is as heartbreaking as it is mesmerizing. About love, desire, betrayal, and one extraordinary woman struggling to shine in the world - even as the one she loves best is drawing the shades. Just magnificent.

Author Blurb Heidi W. Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
A wonderfully engaging read. With crisp dialogue and vivid descriptions, Z delivers both a compelling love story and a poignant tale of a woman coming into her own as an artist.

Author Blurb Sara Gruen
An utterly engrossing portrayal of Zelda Fitzgerald and the legendary circles in which she moved. In the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, Therese Anne Fowler shines a light on Zelda instead of her more famous husband, providing both justice and the voice she struggled to have heard in her lifetime.

Author Blurb Publishers Weekly
Jazz Age legends F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald come into focus in Fowler's rich debut.

Library Journal

A tender, intimate exploration of a complicated woman.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Fowler has given us a lovely, sad and compulsively readable book.

RT Book Reviews

With lyrical prose, Fowler's Z beautifully portrays the frenzied lives of, and complicated relationship between, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald...This is a novel that will open readers' minds to the life of an often misunderstood woman—one not easily forgotten.

Reader Reviews
Elizabeth G.

I'll Take Zelda
Z, the novel about the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald is at points charming and; like another reviewer, I kept thinking of the movie, "Midnight in Paris." It was very interesting, having a degree in literature, and learning more about ...   Read More

KristinaK

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
It was hard to read this novel after having seen Woody Allen's movie, "Midnight in Paris." I kept hearing his actors' voices in my head while reading. In spite of that, like some of the other reviewers, I found the novel challenging to get ...   Read More

Karen R

Excellent story
Beautiful Zelda Sayre, a wealthy, fiery and spoiled Southern Belle met her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, an Army man and budding novelist, shortly after she finished high school. This thoughtfully written book takes us on their life’s journey, through...   Read More

Lori

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
I found Z very interesting, especially having read both The Paris Wife and The Aviator's Wife and other readings from that time period, so this added to my impression of the 20's. I previously had known very little about the Fitzgeralds, so I ...   Read More

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American Expat Writers in Paris

The period between the two World Wars was one of thriving creativity for many artists, and Paris with its bohemian lifestyle, its recognition of artists, and vibrant social life offered plenty of enticements to American writers. The fact that the United States passed Prohibition laws in 1920, banning the sale of alcohol, didn't hurt the migration to Paris either. Among the many who moved to the City of Light were F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, and Ernest Hemingway whose mentor, Gertrude Stein, was a permanent fixture on the expat literary scene.

Gertrude Stein with Ernest Hemingway's son Jack in 1924Stein labeled this group of expat writers as "The Lost Generation" – writers who were adrift after World War I and were trying to find a set of values they could believe in. Their ...

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