Monday, February 14, 2011

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald: An American Woman's Life

According to the blurb: "Linda Wagner-Martin has created a new kind of biography of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald: Zelda's story from her perspective, instead of her famous husband's. This is the first biography to tell her entire life story, describing what it meant to be born in 1900, and then to be a "New Woman" in Montgomery, Alabama. Featuring for the first time information from the newly available archives at Princeton, Wagner-Martin vividly illustrates Zelda's psychiatric landscape. Detailed discussions of the roots of alcoholism and infidelity are juxtaposed with the first comprehensive critiques of Zelda's diverse artistic accomplishments as a dancer, short story writer, essayist and novelist. This is an evocative portrayal of a talented woman's professional and emotional conflicts, a story with as much relevance today as it had half a century ago."

Overall, I would say this is true...although I would add the caveat that this book does not produce quite the separation of Zelda's story from that of "F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife" as I was led to believe. A great amount of the material is told from the perspective of Zelda as wife to the "great writer." And how that affected her. Quite honestly, I don't see any other way for the story to be told. Once Zelda married him, there was not going back to "just Zelda." Every time she tried to assert herself--whether through her own writing or her dancing--Scott took control or forced himself to the forefront. Even to the point of claiming some of her short stories as his own.

In the end this is a very sad story. It would seem that Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was a very talented woman in her own right. She had a great gift as a ballet dance and with the written word. Without the influence of alcohol and Scott's need to control every aspect of her life, she might well have been as prominent a literary figure as her husband. It is a very compelling story of the struggle of women during the early part of the 20th century to assert themselves as more than just appendages to their husbands--to be able to develop their own talents and to feel worthwhile as something more than just wives, mothers, and housekeepers. Three and a half stars.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a book I might like to pick up one of these days. It is sad the struggle she had to endure to try and assert herself as her own woman and not just the wife of F. Scott, but I guess that was the nature of the times and the problem of being married to a powerful personality.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Being that F.Scott Fitzgerald was from my neck of the woods, I've always been a bit drawn to their story. I have have the bio Zelda by Nancy Mitford on my shelf for years.

Jen at Introverted Reader said...

I can't say that I really know much about either of the Fitzgeralds (I made a point of disliking almost all of my required reading of school, and that did include The Great Gatsby), but the little I've picked up does make them sound like fascinating, troubled people.