Rating: 4.5 / 5
I’ve always been a little fascinated with the wives living in the shadow of their more famous husbands. Society always put successful people on a pedestal on their own with little regard for those who have helped them achieve success and fame. When I read The Paris Wife last year, I couldn’t help but think, “Poor Hadley, it’s such a shame married Ernest Hemingway.” Knowing how much I enjoyed that novel, I just had to read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Author Therese Anne Fowler does an amazing job detailing the fragile and torrent relationship between Zelda and Scott. Most people only refer to Zelda as the crazy woman Scott married, who was nowhere near as talented as her husband.
Zelda is portrayed as beautiful, vibrant, and full of life. Although the story is told from Zelda’s point of view, and therefore is sympathetic to her plight, it’s hard to believe that Zelda was the downfall of Scott, as so many believe. The marital bliss ended when Scott’s drinking outpaced his writing, yet neither one could let go of living the high life. Many times, it felt like they suffered from the, “keeping up with the Jones” mentality. Though they were considered the “golden couple” of the 1920s, both of them had destructive tendencies that fed off one another and made the relationship worse.
Z, however, is about more than just Zelda’s relationship with Scott; it delves into the time period when men were considered superior to women in every way. I can’t imagine living in a time when it was frowned upon for women to work, or to have hopes and dreams beyond raising children. Scott wanted Zelda to be a trophy wife, one whom his peers would envy and would embrace the parties, fame, and success with him. When she began to carve out her own identity and show potential as a writer, Scott became jealous and afraid that she might actually outshine him. The fact that both of them could not strive to be successful in their own right is telling of the cultural and societal expectations of that time.
Z is a captivating and wonderful account of the lives of two great personalities trying to co-exist. It is an engaging and tragic story, and while the author clearly states that it is a fictionalized account of the Fitzgeralds, Fowler did an amazing job of bringing the story to life. I easily recommend this book, especially for those who are die hard Team Scott, just to get a different perspective on this couple.