The Fitzgeralds did not live happy lives. I’ve always pictured them living free, fun, artistic lives, whether in New York or Paris or somewhere else. You know, the flapper mentality of the 1920s – life is a party and anything can happen. But truthfully, life isn’t a party. Oh, it can be for awhile, but it doesn’t last. The Fitzgeralds started their life together as a party, but then other things invaded. There was drunkenness, mental illness, money problems. . . Life was not always carefree.
I recently read two books that opened my eyes to the real life of the Fitzgeralds: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler and Gatsby’s Girl by Caroline Preston. As the subtitle claims, Z tells the story of Scott’s wife, Zelda. And again, it’s not a happy story. She started out as the consummate flapper and ended up living in mental hospitals until she died. Fowler does a beautiful job of telling Zelda’s story. The lives of famous people get distorted through time, gossip, and retellings. Z provides Zelda’s side and a plausible explanation for her behavior. Zelda becomes a character you can truly sympathize with and feel sorry for, rather than just a “crazy person”, as she is sometimes portrayed. This is Zelda’s life as she would want it to be known.
Gatsby’s Girl follows the Fitzgeralds only indirectly. The “girl” of the title is Scott Fitzgerald’s first serious girlfriend, Ginevra Perry (based on a real person named Ginevra King). They meet one winter break during Scott’s college years and write letters for many months. But when Scott actually comes to visit, Ginevra finds him annoying and immature, and decides to end the relationship. By doing so, she becomes the inspiration for the ultimate unattainable love, as seen in The Great Gatsby and other works by Fitzgerald. Preston also gives us a relatable character, one who makes mistakes but then tries to make the best of them.
Both of these books provide insights into the life of a famous author and those who surrounded him. The characters are flawed, but it is precisely these flaws that draw us to them.
My name is Julie, and I own a lot of books. As in, they are stacked on the floor because I've run out of room on the shelves. And those shelves? There are so many books on them that they smile -- not sag; smile. This blog will cover book reviews and all manner of other bookish things.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.