Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler – Book Review

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan

Depending on whose account you read, Zelda was either F. Scott Fitzgerald’s muse or the thing that ruined his life and his writing career. What often gets lost in the discussion is the fact that Zelda was a smart woman and a talented writer in her own right. Therese Anne Fowler’s Z remedies all of this. Z joins Zelda’s story before she ever meets Scott and covers her life through their often rocky marriage through Zelda’s institutionalization and Scott’s death.

I loved this book from page one. Fowler’s writing is lovely, and seems to bring the essence of Zelda roaring to life. My favorite thing about it, though, may have been Zelda’s antipathy towards Hemingway. I do not personally have a high opinion of the man (or his writing, to be honest), so Zelda’s smack talk made me feel vindicated in my opinions of him. Fowler’s Hemingway is delightfully mean and vindictive, with a side of manipulative that ensnares her Scott Fitzgerald.

Of course, a novel cannot be carried on hatred of Hemingway alone. Luckily even for those of you who adore Hemingway, Z is a vividly imagined novel about one of the most fascinating women of the early 20th century. Very highly recommended.

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The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – Book Review

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

When Hadley Richardson met Ernest Hemingway, something was very clearly special not only about him, but about them together. Supportive from before his career truly began, Hadley married Ernest in order to follow him to Europe. Europe, particularly Paris, was the place to be for up and coming writers in the 1920s, so it was only natural that the ambitious young Hemingway would want to be there. Things are difficult for the young couple, money is extremely tight, and Ernest’s writing does not always come as quickly or easily as he hopes, but still, with a few introductions they are able to join the ranks of the bright young literati. This is a crowd, however, that Hadley never feels completely comfortable with. She is never more than the artist’s wife, never valued for herself, including – it increasingly seems – by Ernest.

The Paris Wife succeeded in making me want to check out Hemingway’s work, while at the same time cementing my inherent misgivings about him. Ernest was arrogant, stepping on his alleged friends and even using them and their work to advance his own. Hadley, though, was quite engaging. McLain balanced Hadley very well, making her not too modern and not too needy, but still very vulnerable and sympathetic.

A fascinating story with an engaging main character and great pacing, I can high recommend The Paris Wife.

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