On the Shelf: Therese Anne Fowler’s ‘Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald’

zFor me, one of the best things about Mexico was having time to read and while I didn’t exactly get through the ambitious seven novels I brought, I did manage to read a couple. Among them was Therese Anne Fowler’s singular first novel Z.

Prior to discovering the novel, I had a vague idea of the glamorous literary lives of the Fitzgeralds, but an even more evasive notion of Zelda. Fowler’s compulsively readable Z brought her to life in vivid color. From her first meeting with Scott in 1918 at a country club dance to the dizzying years of their marriage lived in New York, Paris and Hollywood, Fowler captured the intense emotion, the magic,  and the cracks of discontent wholly and lovingly.

Fowler did a great array of research to bring Zelda’s blurred life into focus, and even though this is a work of fiction, I was struck again and again by the logic and coherence.  The connective tissues Fowler weaves through the often disjointed lives of Scott and Zelda seem so likely that it’s easy to forgets this is fiction. Or is it? In the novel’s afterward Fowler mentions uncanny “coincidences.” Much of Z was published on the same dates as The Great Gatsby, among other unusual occurrences.

Above all, Z is a beautifully rendered memoir-like novel brimming with insight, wit and authenticity. It’s for those of us who are curious, who want to know the inside story not for the gossip, but in order to really ‘get’ someone. You laugh and ache with Zelda, but above all, you cheer her on.


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