Having just reread The Great Gatsby, seen the new screen adaptation by Baz Lurhrmann, it was most fitting to read an account of Zelda, Fitzgerald's wife. It also further fuels my fascination with the "Lost Generation" and the creative genius that emerged from it. Reading Z also was a parallel to The Paris Wife, the novel about Hemingway's first wife, Hadley.
There have been numerous biographies of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, but this is strictly a novel and it reads like one. Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald meet in her hometown in Alabama as she is performing in a dance recital. Their courtship is unorthodox, to say the least, much like Hadley and Ernest Hemingway. She rushes off to marry him in a small ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in 1920. Fitzgerald had just published his first novel and it was met with much acclaim. From there the novel explores and exposes the glamour and tribulation that their lives together endured. The reader sees Zelda as a woman wanting to burst from the cocoon of her strangling husband, a woman who has so much to offer on her own, but unsure of how to balance what a wife should be and what her life would be. Fitzgerald is portrayed as a domineering alcoholic who more often than not becomes a pawn of Ernest Hemingway. When Zelda and Scott's daughter, Scottie, is born, there is an instant where the reader thinks that history can be rewritten and he will be that sober and loving husband and father. But it isn't and the maelstrom that drags the couple down is inevitable.
All of the supporting characters of the time make and appearance in the novel. There are the salons in Paris, the relationship of Gertrude and Alice, H.L. Mencken and his influence, Ezra Pound, Sherwood Anderson, and of course Hadley and Ernest Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer. Z was a quick read. Upon reflection, I think this was because it seemed to be only a caricature of the woman that was Zelda Fitzgerald. The deep exploration of Zelda is not present. I kept wishing for more than a cursory look at her and her relationship with Scott. He is portrayed almost without redeeming value as he refused to acknowledge her talents and desire for a full and satisfying life. They both question why they remained married and cast aside the idea of divorce. I do think they truly loved each other.
I am fascinated by Zelda and so will put on my reading list the most acclaimed biography of her: Zelda by Nancy Milford. It will be interesting to contrast the two perspectives.