52 Books, 52 Weeks, Week 15: A Roaring Zelda

cute teenage girl reading...
cute teenage girl reading...

For week 15 already of my 52 books in 52 weeks project I read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.

The novel is an historical fiction account of F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda, and their life together. Zelda and Fitzgerald meet at a country club dance in her hometown in Alabama 1918 when she's just seventeen years old. He's a young army officer full of ambition to become a famous writer, and she's a restless and slightly spoiled girl with an overwhelming sense of fun.

They fall in love and eventually marry after Fitzgerald sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise. And then the fame and money that Fitzgerald craved start to come. It's the Jazz Age and these two become its center: intellectual and beautiful and rich and drunk, they tumble through New York, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris and the French Riviera, where they play and fight and struggle along with the Lost Generation -- Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, the Murphys.

No party can go on forever of course, and theirs comes to a crashing, spectacular halt, which if you don't already know about I won't spoil for you.

What a wonderful book. I never knew much about Zelda -- or Fitzgerald for that matter, though I've read This Side of Paradise and Gatsby, of course -- but I feel as if I know her now. A smart, adventurous woman with ambitions of her own, the great joy and tragedy of her life was her love for Fitzgerald. These two were both wonderful and terrible together: each other's muse, but also each other's destruction. Fowler does an impressive job of weaving together the known facts and the likely-been fiction, the thoughts inside the heads that danced and laughed and drank and loved and wrote and despaired and seared themselves into the public consciousness, as I am sure this book is going to do.

I'm not a huge reader of historical fiction, but if this is the standard, I will be reading more.

So now we leave the roaring twenties to come firmly into the twenty-first century. This week is a wildcard week, and I've chosen The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison, a debut author. The novel is about a popular high school teacher whose world comes crashing down when a YouTube video of what looks like an assault on a student goes viral. I've read some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so happy reading and see you same time, same place, next week.

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