Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Therese Anne Fowler's Z

There's nothing like losing yourself in someone else's troubles to make you forget your own.
—Zelda in Z, A Novel Zelda Fitzgerald

As I read a novel, there are usually a few sentences that always make me stop and take a second notice of. I love highlighting these, but of course only if it is my novel.

And in Therese Anne Fowler's latest novel, Z, there are quite a few highlights. Therese makes the scenes of the novel jump off the page and into your mind. I could see Zelda and Scott in New York, Paris, and Montgomery, Alabama.

Zelda was such a magnificent woman, but I've only thought of her as the woman behind the man. I've heard that she was the inspiration for many of Fitzgerald's female characters, especially Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby. Daisy was never a favorite of mine and I didn't know if I really wanted to know anything about this woman.

I'm so happy that I had an open mind. This is not a memoir, but Therese spent many hours doing research. She made every effort to have the Fitzgeralds in the proper place and time according to their life. She read many letters written by Zelda. She read their novels. Notice I said their. Zelda wrote many stories, essays, and even a few novels. She wasn't trained like Fitzgerald, but she quips that she had a wonderful education for Scott used Zelda as his reader for most of his works. Zelda often offered suggestions, plot points, and was considered his muse.

Zelda wanted more than the typical marriage, children, and home that her sisters and friends had. She and Scott marry and the adventure begins. They live in New York and Paris. They vacation in Europe. They spend time with Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, and many other wonderful writers of that era.

Their perfect life is not so perfect. Scott drinks a lot. Zelda is infatuated with the ballet. She spends so much time dancing and perfecting her performances that she is offered a professional position as a ballet dancer. Zelda also has dark times and Scott turns to many doctors and institutions to help his wife. Scott is not an angel. Both husband and wife engage in affairs. Zelda is often hospitalized and incapable of caring for their only daughter, Scottie.

Despite Zelda's shortcomings, I couldn't help but love her. She is so misunderstood by her family, friends, and even herself. And the medical community of that time does not know how to deal with the mental problems she has.

The Fitzgeralds lived a life of excess. They were free with their money. They liked to drink. They loved to socialize. Scott earned an exorbitant amount of money, but never learned to manage it, spend all you have, there will always be more later. Scott eventually turned to Hollywood, where his screenplays fared better financially than many of his novels.

Even though I knew how the story ends, I couldn't help but hope for a happy ending. And while that isn't the case for Zelda, I was happy to have read her story. Zelda was an accomplished writer, dancer, and painter and I feel that Therese Anne Fowler did a wonderful job of humanizing the woman, who I once only thought of as the woman behind the great F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I am looking forward to reading some of Zelda's work, and I can't wait to reread The Great Gatsby through a new lens.

I first met Therese a few years ago at a writer's conference. She was so encouraging. It is always wonderful to meet a kindred spirit, a person who shares a similar interest and passion. I've read all of her novels and loved each one. I've seen her grow as a writer. Each new novel is better than the previous. I'm so happy to see other readers finding her works. She truly deserves to be part of the New York Times Bestsellers.

And on a special note, today is also Therese's birthday and it is so wonderful that we also have that in common. I'm looking forward to lunch tomorrow where Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC is hosting Book Your Lunch with Therese Fowler. There are still a few tickets left so if you're in the area, you should treat yourself.

                                —The Great Gatsby


  1. I believe Zelda was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
    Fitzgerald's screenplays did not fare better than his novels. He was quite frustrated by Hollywood, and his novels are timeless classics that will be read for generations. :)

  2. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but now doctors believe she was bi-polar. Fitzgerald was quite frustrated by Hollywood, but money from Hollywood helped him pay the bills. HIs novels are timeless classics and I agree that generations will continue to enjoy them. He is one of my favorite writers.