I purchased this book shortly after finishing The Paris Wife, since Zelda was mentioned and I thought it would be neat to get another perspective of a character during the same time period. I was right about that, and I think I enjoyed this one even more, giving it 5 stars on Goodreads.
This book is the story of Zelda Fitzgerald’s (Sayre) life, specifically her marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald. They were very much in love, but they both were very ambitious and seemed to have a hard time reconciling those two things. It was a very stark difference to The Paris Wife, where Ernest Hemingway’s first wife just put up with his crap and did her best to support the family. Zelda wanted more than that for herself, and could relate to her in that. Since Hemingway and his wife and the Fitzgerald’s interact, I got to experience two different sides of their stories and see their impressions of each other.
I found myself really identifying with Zelda. She wants greatness for herself, and has many interests in which she wants to make that possible. She loves to dance, write and paint amount other things. She’s fairly talented in all of these things, and dabbles in all of them during her free time throughout the novel. She very much wants to be her own person, not just the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
One quote really sung to me:
I did everything in my life halfway, or worse.
You, my dear, seem stuck, too.
And I was. What did I commit to absolutely? In my heart I was fully committed to Scottie, sure, but in my days I was, at best, ten percent. Everything else – Scott, painting, writing, dance, friendships, family – got less of my heart by far, even if I did give it more of my time.
This just really felt like it was coming from the character’s heart, but it was also like she was looking into mine. I have so many things I want to do in this world, but not enough time and I really only end up pursuing a few of them. I felt Zelda and I were very similar in this way, among others.
The writing of this was great. It was told in first person, so I felt like I was walking alongside her or reading her diary. By the time I finished, I felt like I had lost a friend. The reader really grows to know her inner thoughts and how she experiences her world. I also enjoyed that different mediums were used throughout the story, like poems and letters which put the story into perspective.
The challenges or their marriage and life together was fascinating. They both really had this desire to be remarkable. Scott spent his whole life trying to do that through his writing, and sadly, it didn’t really happen until after his death. Zelda felt this same pull of aspirations, but social expectations held her back. Even though times were changing in the 20s, Zelda was still expected to handle domestic pursuits as the wife. This was suffocating for Zelda, but Scott was very frustrated by her inability to be happy with her lot. They certainly loved each other, and Scott tried to give everything to her, but she just never felt fulfilled. Sometimes it was hard to tell if Fitzgerald was being a jerk, or trying to do what he thought was best. It was a tricky line to tread, but I think the book did it well. Even though Zelda expressed her frustrations, she was still devoted to her husband to the end.
I will definitely be keeping this book, I very much enjoyed it and I think I would like to spend some time with Zelda again in the future. I sure wish I had Amazon so I could watch the show that follows this book, that would help me enjoy the story longer. I would recommend this for anyone who likes historical fiction, or the 1920s in general.