Zelda – A Biography – Book Review

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald were international sensations during the Jazz age of the 20s. They traveled the world on a wave of excitement and romance. But beneath their carefree public personas lurked alcoholism, madness and tragedy.

Nancy Milford has done her homework. She draws from Zelda’s scrapbooks and love letters; mines information from old friends; and even delves into both the Fitzgerald’s writings, which were autobiographical stories masquerading as fiction.

The book is dark and brooding at times, and difficult to read as Zelda’s life spirals out of control. Morose and intense, I found myself having to take frequent breaks to take a breath and recover. Milford portrays Scott Fizgerald as a man consumed by his writing, drinking to excess, and using his wife’s words (from her diary and letters) as fodder for his novels. Disturbingly, many of Zelda’s work was published under Scott’s name. As a writer myself, I found this unforgivable.

In the end, I was overwhelmed with sympathy for Zelda. She was a highly intelligent, gifted woman who could not overcome the demons of schizophrenia which haunted her. Milford leaves the reader feeling exhausted by the tragedy of Zelda’s life and death. The book is worth reading for the breadth and depth of the information provided; but it is hardly a “light” or enjoyable read.

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    • Anonymous on March 24, 2007 at 17:39

    I don’t think that I’ll be reading this book after your review! I’ve read quite a lot about the Fitzgeralds and Scott often doesn’t seem like an attractive character in spite of his classic writing. You may like an excellent book about the Murphys who really started the whole ’20’s scene’ in the Meditteranean – We Were Always Young. I think that that’s the right title!

    • Anonymous on March 24, 2007 at 18:11

    Thanks for the recommendation, Lisa…I’ll have to check it out! Scott Fitzgerald really came across badly in this biography; it made me not want to read any of his novels!

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