Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck – Book Review

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.

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Source: Publisher, via Edelweiss.
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4 comments to Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck – Book Review

  • Hemingway’s Girl kind of bothered me because I didn’t like Robuck’s fictionalized use of another character (the Cuban maid, Maria) to tell Hemingway’s story. I felt like she was super-imposed, not real, which detracted authenticity from the whole story. It really grated on me, throughout. Now she’s done it again with Anna. I have a copy of this book for review, but I’m hemming about reading it b/c I don’t want to get annoyed again. Did you have a similar frustration reading, or were you able to overlook it?

    • I didn’t think that Mariella was fake so much as that she just didn’t completely resonate with me, where she was in life, etc. Anna felt more fully-fleshed and more like someone I “got.” Robuck’s Zelda, as I said in the review, really could not have narrated her own story, and Anna makes for a much for sympathetic narrator than Scott possibly could have. Creating a fictional character to observe the life of someone famous is a pretty common thing to do in historical fiction and it doesn’t bother me in and of itself, although I do have a slight preference for stories from the point of view of a real character.

  • OOOOH! I loved Z so I will definitely have to pick this one up! Thanks for mentioning that they go well together, otherwise I would have thought this book a bit redundant and may have passed!