Biography & Autobiography. Nonfiction. HTML: "Profound, overwhelmingly moving . . . a richly complex love story." ‚?? New York Times Acclaimed biographer Nancy Milford brings to life the tormented, elusive personality of Zelda Sayre and clarifies as never before Zelda's relationship with her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald‚??tracing the inner disintegration of a gifted, despairing woman, torn by the clash between her husband's career and her own talent. Zelda Sayre's stormy life spanned from notoriety as a spirited Southern beauty to success as a gifted novelist and international celebrity at the side of her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda and Fitzgerald were one of the most visible couples of the Jazz Age, inhabiting and creating around them a world of excitement, romance, art, and promise. Yet their tumultuous relationship precipitated a descent into depression and mental instability for Zelda, leaving her to spend the final twenty years of her life in hospital care, until a fire at a sanitarium claimed her life. Incorporating years of exhaustive research and interviews, Milford illuminates Zelda's nuanced and elusive personality, giving character to both her artistic vibrancy and to her catastrophic collapse
Similar in this library
I first learned about Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald a few years ago when I tried to read a couple of Scott Fitzgerald's books. I couldn't STAND the main characters in any of the books, and reading that they were semi-based on the Fitzgeralds in real life made me think these must be some of the most horrid people ever. I read asides about how rocky their relationship was but didn't know too much, but was a little interested in how the characters in the fictional worlds Scott created contrasted with the real people a lot of people compared them to. It wasn't really enough of an interest to do any footwork until I read Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" and read about his encounters with the Fitzgeralds. They sounded interesting and it spurred me to read "Zelda," which had been sitting on my bookshelf for about a year.
So I guess I should get to the actual review, sorry. Milford writes about Zelda's childhood briefly, but most of the book focuses on her life after she meets Scott, which has a lot to do with the fact that the latter part of her life is better documented, I'm sure. Milford is a skillful biographer and has a knack as far as keeping the reader interested in the story she's telling. This is not quite a biography of Scott, but it is hard not to tell his story while telling Zelda's, so you learn quite a bit about Scott along the way.
Zelda's story is so sad, at least I thought it was. She is not a sympathetic character all of the time -- sometimes she is downright unlikeable -- but I couldn't help but feel sorry for her as her husband stole pieces wholesale from her life to use in his writing, including writing from her journals and letters, and blamed her for almost everything bad that happened to him, professionally and sometimes personally. It seemed at times that he even blamed her for her own mental illness. Reading about Zelda's ups-and-downs and visits to mental health facilities was as sad as reading about her plaintive letters to Scott after their relationship fizzled for the last time, and her problems connecting with her daughter, Scottie.
"Zelda" is just a SAD book, so I can see why it wouldn't be for everybody. It does give great insight into the life of the couple behind the books I read, though (and surprise! I think I would dislike them as much in real life, in their heyday, as I did the characters in the books), and it gives a little window into how mental illness was handled seventy years ago or so. It's a fascinating look into a complicated life, if you can get past the melancholy inevitable end.
[BONUS! I have now learned I am crap at reviewing biographies. Yay?]
Milford's 1970 biography of Zelda manages to straddle the two camps. Their lives and their psyches were so intertwined that any biography of one seems perforce to be an analysis of the other. Milford handles both with sensitivity and clarity. Scholarship has taken us much further in the thirty plus years since this biography was published. Yet everything since owes a debt to Milford's work and original research. It is especially notable for the number of first hand interviews conducted with friends, family and contemporaries. I was amazed at her apparent complete access to Zelda's medical records - astonishing at least to eyes accustomed to this age of HIPAA and patient privacy. For these resources alone we would be indebted. For Milford's careful and incisive handling of these resources biographers ever since have been grateful.
There are more superficial handling of Zelda's story and more up-to-date treatises. Nevertheless, this is essential reading for anyone hoping to understand Zelda Fitzgerald's artistry and role in her times.
Here is one that she wrote to describe the
"filled with copper clouds like the after-math of cannon-fire, pre-war, civil-war clouds and I feel all empty and bored and very much in love with you, my dear one, my own. I wish you were here so we could stretch our legs down beside one another and feel all warm and hidden in the bed, like seeds beaten into the earth. Why is there happiness and comfort and excitement where you are and no where else in the world, and why is there a sleepy tremulo in the air when you are near that's promising and living like a vibrating fecundity?"
4 1/2 stars for a biography on the tragic lives of two who personified the Jazz Age
Nancy Milford has done her homework. She draws from Zelda's
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.
Zelda Sayre was the spoiled daughter of a Southern family when she met F. Scott Fitzgerald while he was a soldier posted close to her town. After marrying, they soon became Jazz Age darlings with
Thanks to Nancy Milford's excellent writing, a difficult subject is brought to life with tact and sympathy.
Well written, the research seems sound.Since Fitzgerald is taught in American high schools this is an important contribution to American literature. The couple's relationship with the American publishing business also shows how certain author's become popular even though Fitzgerald only published 4 full length novels in his lifetime.
That was the only time I understood her...just a little.
I wasn't in love with Zelda from the start but her story is a fascinating one. It makes for good reading even if the lead doesn't