Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
NovelTea Book Club hosted by My Life as a Teacup I joined an online book club and the first book (that I could participate in) chose Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. I have obviously heard of F. S. Fitzgerald (I've seen the movie Gatsby but not read the book) but I had never heard of his wife.
One of the first things the book club did was a shout out to a character in the book William Blake. Who is a real person I have also never heard of. And that made me realize this book club was allot more than I was expecting! I am exciting because I've been looking for a way to expand my book horizons and fingers crossed this is it.
Every Friday they post questions about the book. I think I will add those questions to my post and hopefully answer them.
These questions are from February 6th 1. What are your initial impressions of Zelda? Does she seem fit what you know of her, however much that may be? How badly do you want to be best friends (or not at all!) Zelda is adorable, she reminds me of my sister. But I am not sure if we could have been friends. I am much too shy and she is very bold. Especially when you take in the era. I hope I would be bold like her feminist friend, Sara but I can't be sure.
2. Let’s talk about sex! Or sexology, rather. On page 46, Zelda and Sara discuss the controversial new study of “women’s power within the intimate relationship, and about understand our unique physiological qualities so that we aren’t shamed by our desires.” What is women’s power, in relationships and society at the time? Does Zelda fit into this ideal? Can we apply any aspects of sexology to the current wave of the feminist movement? I would love to do a study on sexology. Women's power at the time were house wife's with the stigma of working wife's being shameful. She even states on page 35 "No respectable married woman held a job if she had any choice about it, not in Alabama. We girls were trained up knowing there was only one goal to worry ourselves about, and that was marriage to the best sort of fella who would have us." Zelda wants to fit into that mold but isn't quite for it. She fights it by avoiding corsets, folding her skirts up. If I am understanding it right I think we can apply aspects of sexology to the wave of feminism happening in the book. Women are trying to get the vote!
3. Is Zelda’s concern about Scott’s financial status and future career materialistic, or simply her rational side, the side that is “certain love does not conquer all” (47) showing through? I think Zelda has romanticized the idea of being married to an author. I don't know any back story of the Fitzgerald lives but when Scott gives her the watch and her Daddy says she'll have to trade it in. I do wish they were more conservative with their money. I don't think she full understands the cost of things and how finances work. But I think most teenagers even now-a-days go through a time when they move out on their own that money seems in abundance and it takes time to start saving.
Other things I'd like to note at this point: I feel like I can hear Zelda's accent in my head. She sounds allot like my sister just with that southern tang. Slavery was abolished in 1865 and the book starts in 1918. That's a 47 year different and yet they have a black working women in the house and seem unhappy with the idea. I think it was Eleanor's Mom who wanted to be a feminist but feels she is too old to be so. I just can't seem to find the page this happened on.
And that brings me to the end of PART ONE
PART TWO The casual way her black eye is brought up and about really bothers me. "I was in the mind that I deserved what I got; it had seemed to me a fair fight, no different from I'd have had with my brother or any of the kids I'd grown up with."
Questions from February 13 1. Can a thing be both popular AND good? (pg. 110) I do think something can be popular and good. But the reality of it is that it's all about how people handle it. Something that can be good can be mad bad if handled poorly. In the case of Zelda and Scott, the interview with the paper was terrible. That is not the way to treat a person. Scott doesn't need popularity, he needs motivation to work.
2. A tie in, but I think worthy of its own question, are the "most important works too erudite for the masses"? (pg. 112) I like the next line "And for me, too, apparently, since I don't know what erudite is."
3. Zelda is unwillingly cast in the role of Rosalind and encouraged to play the part of Scott's muse. Does she give up a piece of her fiery, honest, intellectual self to do this? To what extent is she Zelda Sayre, married and enthralled by a new life in NYC, and to what extent is she playing a role for Scott's benefit? Zelda is definitely giving something up of herself to play the role she thinks Scott wants her to play. It's slowly breaking her to pieces. I think she is pushing herself out of her boundaries to keep up with Scott and not allowing her true self to come out. At the same time though she is enjoying being free without restrictions. I remember a time when I was very much the same way. Except Scott isn't allowing her to grow up and beyond that phase.
4. To that end, is Zelda in love with Scott, or rather the idea of him and the "New York woman" she is becoming (pg. 130) I think she is enthralled with Scott and wants to do everything to be what he wants her to be.
5. Did anyone else take offense to Scott's calling of Zelda's newfound side job writing reviews and articles a "hobby" (pg. 150)? I know it's a statement of its time, but still...boo. This was so upsetting. Scott is offensive through and through.
And that brings us to the end of Part Two
PART THREE Questions from February 20 1. Was Jozan just a symbol, a symptom, as Zelda muses on page 186? Yes. I think he was a symbol of how she wished to be treated.
2. When they first met, Zelda and Scott were so in love, but Zelda eventually realizes the cycle of bad behavior and the perilous choices they are both making. Why is she “as helpless to resist a bad choice as he was” (pg. 230)? Should Zelda end the unhappiness and leave Scott? Is she even able to, at this point, or is she stuck in the cycle? She is stuck in the cycle but I think it could have been changed. A stronger personality, a step back and a removal from their environment and a lot of communication.
3. In the appendices, Fowler admits to reconstructing some events to the best of her ability based on letters, inferences, and clues. The exchange between Zelda and Hemingway on page 233 is one of those reconstructions, yet fictitious or not, the exchange is an uncomfortable and monumental one in Zelda’s and Hemingway’s relationship. Did she make the right choice in keeping this exchange from Scott? Would Scott listen if she told him, or would he be clouded by his admiration for Hemingway? Would Zelda’s life look any differently had she talked with Scott, or this exchange not have happened? Unfortunately this is one of the few times that I think it was a good idea for Zelda to keep the secret of her and Hemingway. I am not one to prompt secrets between spouses. But I don't think Scott would have listened to her and I think it would have been more disastrous to her then helped. No matter how Zelda would have responded to Heminway she was screwed.
4. “When I grow up, I want to be [Lubov Egorova]” (pg. 281) —I constantly forget and am reminded of just how young Zelda is throughout this story. Her remark about “growing up” and wanting to become like her ballet teacher is another moment where Zelda battles with age, literally and metaphorically. How does Zelda’s age affect her relationships with her friends, family, and teachers? Is this comment a witty slip, or does Zelda still strive to honestly make something of herself as she “grows up”? It is so hard to think of Zelda as 27. She is a year younger than me and older by twenty years.
PART FOUR Took over at some point but something I'd like to note is Zelda's Moms letter on page 248 was a bit frustrating. Such terrible advice to give. Page 313, where Zelda says no to the Ballet offer breaks my heart. It's like she's literally giving up everything. No wonder she is where she is at by the end of Part four. It's so unfortunate how women had no support then. I hope it's better now. Someday's I worry we aren't far enough from that time.
PART FIVE While I took the entire month to read this book Part five took me an hour. I enjoyed this book. But because I was doing it as part of the book club I felt I had to stay on par with the weekly questions. Not sure if this is something I will continue with in the future. However, I enjoyed the book. Part five took me so short a time to read because it made me angry. Scott was a terrible human to Zelda, the doctors were terrible. The whole thing is/was messed up. While this is based on actual people, there is no way of knowing if this is what happened.
This was an interesting read. Far from my normal and I am looking forward to crashing through some short stories soon!!