Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck
Published by NAL Trade, an imprint of Penguin
Like Therese Fowler’s Z, Call Me Zelda is a story of the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, perhaps best known as the troubled wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, although an accomplished writer and artist in her own right. Whereas Z focuses on Zelda’s life from the time she met Scott, Call Me Zelda begins after Zelda has already been institutionalized for mental illness. Robuck’s protagonist is not Zelda herself, but Anna, a psychiatric nurse at Zelda’s hospital, with whom Zelda forms an attachment. Anna is an engaging, well-drawn character, and a very necessary one. Robuck’s Zelda is increasingly in the grips of her mental illness, and thus not truly fit to narrate her own story, devolving as she is into madness. Anna, while in the grips of pain from her own losses, is able to see Zelda and Scott’s lives a bit more objectively, despite her attachment to Zelda.
In many ways I liked Call Me Zelda even more than Robuck’s previous book, Hemingway’s Girl. The non-famous person is, in this case, integral to understanding the life of the famous one. Anna is also an incredibly engaging main character. She is sympathetically drawn with real pain and a real life of her own. She is complex and, therefore, interesting. Her appeal to rationality is a good balance to Zelda’s lack of reason.
Call Me Zelda is a lovely and engaging novel and if you’ve already enjoyed Z, Call Me Zelda picks up largely where it leaves off, making the two books a good pairing. Recommended.
Source: Publisher, via Edelweiss.
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