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Zelda: A Biography

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Zelda Sayre started out as a Southern beauty, became an international wonder, and died by fire in a madhouse. With her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, she moved in a golden aura of excitement, romance, and promise. The epitome of the Jazz Age, they rode the crest of the era to its collapse and their own. As a result of years of exhaustive research, Nancy Milford brings alive Zelda Sayre started out as a Southern beauty, became an international wonder, and died by fire in a madhouse. With her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, she moved in a golden aura of excitement, romance, and promise. The epitome of the Jazz Age, they rode the crest of the era to its collapse and their own. As a result of years of exhaustive research, Nancy Milford brings alive the tormented, elusive personality of Zelda and clarifies as never before her relationship with Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda traces the inner disintegration of a gifted, despairing woman, torn by the clash between her husband’s career and her own talent.


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Zelda Sayre started out as a Southern beauty, became an international wonder, and died by fire in a madhouse. With her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, she moved in a golden aura of excitement, romance, and promise. The epitome of the Jazz Age, they rode the crest of the era to its collapse and their own. As a result of years of exhaustive research, Nancy Milford brings alive Zelda Sayre started out as a Southern beauty, became an international wonder, and died by fire in a madhouse. With her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, she moved in a golden aura of excitement, romance, and promise. The epitome of the Jazz Age, they rode the crest of the era to its collapse and their own. As a result of years of exhaustive research, Nancy Milford brings alive the tormented, elusive personality of Zelda and clarifies as never before her relationship with Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda traces the inner disintegration of a gifted, despairing woman, torn by the clash between her husband’s career and her own talent.

30 review for Zelda: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Now on StoryGraph)

    Zelda, poor Zelda, Your love for F. Scott felled ya. A Southern belle transplanted, You went through hell, that's granted. But oh, those years of glory! Your nineteen-twenties story. The couple with the mostest, You a reluctant hostess. The Paris scene so sparkly, Your mind receding darkly. Your husband used you, wife, To fuel his writing life. To madness you were condemned, Truly The Beautiful and the Damned. Your refuge, destroyed by fire, Became your funeral pyre. Zelda, poor Zelda, Your love for F. Scott felled ya. A Southern belle transplanted, You went through hell, that's granted. But oh, those years of glory! Your nineteen-twenties story. The couple with the mostest, You a reluctant hostess. The Paris scene so sparkly, Your mind receding darkly. Your husband used you, wife, To fuel his writing life. To madness you were condemned, Truly The Beautiful and the Damned. Your refuge, destroyed by fire, Became your funeral pyre.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Aimee

    I almost wish I hadn't read this book, as it gave me insight into the writing method of F. Scott Fitzgerald which has left not only my opinion of him but of his work in a harsh new light. He literally drove his wife insane by stealing her life, writings and personality for his own literary ends. When she herself was published his name was included as author. When she tried to write a novel about her experience with mental illness, her threatened her publisher (who was also his publisher) with de I almost wish I hadn't read this book, as it gave me insight into the writing method of F. Scott Fitzgerald which has left not only my opinion of him but of his work in a harsh new light. He literally drove his wife insane by stealing her life, writings and personality for his own literary ends. When she herself was published his name was included as author. When she tried to write a novel about her experience with mental illness, her threatened her publisher (who was also his publisher) with defection if her work was published before his own "Tender Is The Night". He told her she was a third rate writer but often quoted her diaries and letters verbatim in his novels and short stories. He also thought that he should be her personal psychiatrist and master - he felt he knew best how to treat her illness and often insisted her real doctors agree with him that he should be able to tell her what she could and could not do in all aspects of her life. He blamed her for his alcoholism. In spite of all this he never abandoned her and really did seem to love her, which only makes it all the worse.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gemma

    There’s a tendency to take sides when we read about a turbulent marriage, to take one side or the other. I’ve noticed in other reviews people have tended to take Zelda’s side. But I thought this was a scrupulously fair account of the marriage of the Fitzgerald’s. It seeks to understand the forces that drew them to each other and broke them apart rather than judgementally casting blame. It’s as much a biography of Scott as Zelda and I think the first thing to take into account is that had she not There’s a tendency to take sides when we read about a turbulent marriage, to take one side or the other. I’ve noticed in other reviews people have tended to take Zelda’s side. But I thought this was a scrupulously fair account of the marriage of the Fitzgerald’s. It seeks to understand the forces that drew them to each other and broke them apart rather than judgementally casting blame. It’s as much a biography of Scott as Zelda and I think the first thing to take into account is that had she not married Scott Zelda would not be known to us today. She owes her fame to him which was to be a big part of her problem. Clearly she began to resent this. Firstly it led her to betray Scott, then to obsessively train as a dancer when she was too old to realistically succeed in her ambition and finally to turn to writing where it became clear she possessed a much lesser talent than her husband. On Scott’s part Zelda was a goldmine of material but clearly disastrous in the role of wife to a serious artist. You come away not really knowing who Zelda was. This isn’t at all the biographer’s fault who does a masterful job of gathering all available material and recounting it in a riveting narrative form. Rather it’s the feeling one has that Zelda didn’t have much of an existence outside of Scott. She never had a single close female friend which I found extraordinary. How does a woman go through life without a female confidant? Scott was her only compass and Scott was more often drunk than sober. At the end of the day I sense I would have liked Scott a lot more than I liked Zelda if they were both my dinner guests – until, that is, Scott got drunk. I thoroughly enjoyed this heartbreaking biography and would recommend it to anyone interested in the Fitzgerald’s.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    I've resisted reviewing this one since I've been on this website because I didn't really think I could convey how weirdly central it's become to my life. First, it's a book I discovered in my mother's stack of paperbacks when I was a kid, and the later pictures of Zelda scared the B.Jesus out of me. Then when I went to college it seemed like every artsy girl I tried to date had it on their bookshelves. Flash forward another ten years and I land a job in the city where Zelda was born and where sh I've resisted reviewing this one since I've been on this website because I didn't really think I could convey how weirdly central it's become to my life. First, it's a book I discovered in my mother's stack of paperbacks when I was a kid, and the later pictures of Zelda scared the B.Jesus out of me. Then when I went to college it seemed like every artsy girl I tried to date had it on their bookshelves. Flash forward another ten years and I land a job in the city where Zelda was born and where she met F. Scott, and lo and behold not only do I find myself traipsing around their haunts but they become part of my job. I'm so familiar with this book at this point I have to read it historically for the effect it has had on different generations: first, the women who gobbled it up in the early 70s as a feminist cautionary tale, then later the men and women who took it up as a kind of primer on how to have one of those all-time great love affairs. Having studied it now, and having read it alongside the inevitable revisionary heirs (Sally Cline, for example), it would be unfair to point out the flaws. I won't say this it really gives you an insight into Zelda, but I honestly think Zelda was a cipher. Nevertheless, this is still a landmark book, as evidenced by its continued popularity, and it deserves all the props it gets.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Britany

    Moments of sheer entertainment mixed with sluggish chapters that made me want to put this book down left me feeling mixed up and slightly disappointed. Not sure when I began my obsession with the Fitzgerald's (ok mostly Zelda), but now I can't seem to say "NO" to any book about them-- right along there with books about the Holocaust. Some inexplicable thing that draws me right in before I even read the synopsis. Started out strong and I was pulled right in, almost felt like I was living in the 1 Moments of sheer entertainment mixed with sluggish chapters that made me want to put this book down left me feeling mixed up and slightly disappointed. Not sure when I began my obsession with the Fitzgerald's (ok mostly Zelda), but now I can't seem to say "NO" to any book about them-- right along there with books about the Holocaust. Some inexplicable thing that draws me right in before I even read the synopsis. Started out strong and I was pulled right in, almost felt like I was living in the 1920's with Zelda and Scott. The middle of the book started reading more like a researched thesis filled to the brim with quotes and letters that I found tireless. Too many paragraphs spent comparing and over analyzing books and writings that Zelda and Scott did. I'm happy to have more information on this dramatic couple, however wouldn't be one I would read all over again.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    Topnotch research, well presented with anecdotes from people who knew people who knew. Got this book from the library because I had watched "Tender Is The Night" (a disturbing autobiographical movie: had F. Scott Fitzgerald no conscience?) on TCM and Robert Osborne mentioned Milford's book as the only one that covered Zelda Sayre's creativity and squashed dreams, as well as her struggle with mental and emotional mayhem. Creative coupling is mercurial: drop either partner's dreams on the floor an Topnotch research, well presented with anecdotes from people who knew people who knew. Got this book from the library because I had watched "Tender Is The Night" (a disturbing autobiographical movie: had F. Scott Fitzgerald no conscience?) on TCM and Robert Osborne mentioned Milford's book as the only one that covered Zelda Sayre's creativity and squashed dreams, as well as her struggle with mental and emotional mayhem. Creative coupling is mercurial: drop either partner's dreams on the floor and only magic can reconnect the globules. F. Scott and Zelda were star-crossed in more ways than four. Narcissistic, driven, wildly creative, self-absorbed and destructive: in combination brilliant and doomed. Milford reports the facts, which I appreciate in a biography. F. Scott was an emotional and artistic thief and a cruel coward to boot; aided and abetted by publishers and certain acquaintances. How many stories are there like this? Rodin and Camille Claudel; Rivera and Kahlo. Supernovas. And the women usually ended in institutions. Creative advice to artistic firebrands: stay single or marry a nice banker.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    The is the life of the enigmatic Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, a picture of the Jazz age, the original flapper. That is who we think she was and that is the way history portrays her. We see her in our minds zipping through Paris with her charming husband, Scott, and hobnobbing with the literary elite of the time, and she was all that, but so much less. Before reading this, I was aware that Zelda had serious mental, nervous conditions and was institutionalized, but I did not grasp how much of her life The is the life of the enigmatic Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, a picture of the Jazz age, the original flapper. That is who we think she was and that is the way history portrays her. We see her in our minds zipping through Paris with her charming husband, Scott, and hobnobbing with the literary elite of the time, and she was all that, but so much less. Before reading this, I was aware that Zelda had serious mental, nervous conditions and was institutionalized, but I did not grasp how much of her life was spent in that way, how little was spent in the other, carefree years of youth, and how much of her time was spent in complete exile from her husband. They do not paint and charming picture, they paint a troubled one. He is an alcoholic, she is a schizophrenic and both are romantics. Imagine what Gatsby would have learned if he had actually attained possession of Daisy...well, Scott Fitzgerald got his Daisy to keep and it was not pretty. In the beginning of this account, I did not like Scott very much and I thought he contributed to Zelda's lack of center with his treatment of her. He lifted large sections of her letters and converted them word for word almost into his novels, he portrayed her mercilessly in his prose and bridled at the attempts she made to express herself and become a writer as well. He was afraid of her and contemptuous of her and yet he loved her in that way that we love things we cannot possess but cannot let go of. She answered his obsession with her own and they ate each other alive. By the end, it is mostly Scott I feel for. His egoism and self-confidence have mostly flown and he has turned to his past so much that he has mined it of all its resources. He never deserted Zelda. He paid for her treatments and wrote her weekly letters and single-handedly raised their child. As exasperating as it must have been, he never filed for divorce or deserted her. I never felt as if I knew Zelda. Perhaps she is a person one cannot really know. There is just too much about her that is not the norm, which is what makes her fascinating and also what makes her sad. She was a misplaced Southern girl. That I could relate to. "down in Alabama all the good people ate biscuits for breakfast, which made them very beautiful and pleasant and happy, while up in Connecticut all the people at bacon and eggs and toast, which made them very cross and bored and miserable--especially if they happened to have been brought up on biscuits." She felt herself falling apart, which must be much worse than falling apart without having any recognition: "You were going crazy and calling it genius--I was going to ruin and calling it anything that came to hand." And, finally, she lost all control of her own life. A person who had been such a free-spirit and so artistic, to find themselves categorized and controlled and forced to be so 'normal' and ordinary must have been a thing of great pain. "It seems to me a kind of castration, but since I am powerless I suppose I will have to submit, though I am neithr young enough nor credulous enough to think that you can manufacture out of nothing something to replace the song that I had." They were two very sad people, but at least they had the song at one time. Some people never do.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I knew the broad brushstrokes of the Fitzgeralds' relationship (who doesn't?) but learned so much more about them from this biography. It grew out of an academic thesis, and I could have done without the exhaustive direct quotes from the Fitzgeralds' letters, especially as Zelda's writing became less coherent. I appreciated when the author would draw conclusions and tease out main ideas; I just wish she had done that more often. Zelda was pretty exhausting. She seemed profoundly self-absorbed an I knew the broad brushstrokes of the Fitzgeralds' relationship (who doesn't?) but learned so much more about them from this biography. It grew out of an academic thesis, and I could have done without the exhaustive direct quotes from the Fitzgeralds' letters, especially as Zelda's writing became less coherent. I appreciated when the author would draw conclusions and tease out main ideas; I just wish she had done that more often. Zelda was pretty exhausting. She seemed profoundly self-absorbed and troubled, but also lacking in depth. She brought a lot of confusion and pain to everyone around her, but didn't offer much to others. In spite of that, the book was interesting and thorough and easy to read. I'm happy I read it. It's just too bad that, in real life, there wasn't more substance behind the glamor and endless drama of Zelda and Scott's lives. This book, though long, seemed to underscore that there just wasn't much behind the curtain.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Many years ago, I read nearly all, or maybe all of F.Scott Fitzgerald's books, and so was aware of the mentally unstable Zelda. I'd had this book on my shelves for years and just recently got around to reading it. Lest anyone feel that her madness was caused by the alcohol, FSF, fame, etc., there is abundant material about her rather idiosyncratic up-bringing and her amazing levels of self-involvement, insensitivity to others, narcissism, etc., from her early years. The alcohol consumption didn' Many years ago, I read nearly all, or maybe all of F.Scott Fitzgerald's books, and so was aware of the mentally unstable Zelda. I'd had this book on my shelves for years and just recently got around to reading it. Lest anyone feel that her madness was caused by the alcohol, FSF, fame, etc., there is abundant material about her rather idiosyncratic up-bringing and her amazing levels of self-involvement, insensitivity to others, narcissism, etc., from her early years. The alcohol consumption didn't help, clearly. Several friends of the Fitzgeralds found Zelda to be unbalanced, but her husband simply would not hear of it, until her condition (schizophrenia) became undeniable. What is strange to me is to read that this book has been used by feminists (some) as a kind of rallying cry about creative women who are held back by their men. Zelda, as a younger person, showed no particular interest in creative pursuits----in my opinion, her need to write, dance, paint, etc., came about as a reaction to the creative process she witnessed in her husband. She had an enormous need to be the center of attention, and became pouty when someone else was center stage. She was a "madcap" because it suited her to attract attention. The childishness and egotism on display do not make her a likely model for feminists. She seemed only to become interested in her daughter, Scotty, later in life, and ironically, the periods of stability between her schizophrenic episodes show her to becoming more aware of and caring for her only child. My main complaint about this book is the unending samples of Zelda's irrational writing. It was real work to plod through it and I feel that her descending course of her illness could have been shown just as graphically without the pages and pages of her painful-to-read writings. A very sad story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I found myself frequently wondering "What if..?" as I read this book. What if F. Scott Fitzgerald hadn't used so much of Zelda's life and writing (her letters to him, her journals, and her own essays and short stories) in his own work? What kind of writer would he have been and how would he have been remembered? What if Zelda had been able to rightfully claim authorship of her work rather than Scott claiming credit as the author or co-author (when he contributed nothing or very little to it)? Wh I found myself frequently wondering "What if..?" as I read this book. What if F. Scott Fitzgerald hadn't used so much of Zelda's life and writing (her letters to him, her journals, and her own essays and short stories) in his own work? What kind of writer would he have been and how would he have been remembered? What if Zelda had been able to rightfully claim authorship of her work rather than Scott claiming credit as the author or co-author (when he contributed nothing or very little to it)? What if Zelda had discovered her own voice before it had become ravaged by mental illness? Would we refer to her as F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, or to Scott as Zelda Fitzgerald's husband? This book is a fascinating look at post-war (WWI) America and Europe, the process of writing, the disintegration of a marriage, and the devotion of two people to each other in a way that, arguably, destroyed them both. It is also an example of first rate scholarship.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Though the beginning of this book provides some strict historical information on Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the majority of it is, of necessity, a biography of her better known husband. It is a sad fact that Zelda is, essentially, an extension of him; their lives were so closely intertwined and mutually dependent that it would be impossible to look at only half of the dynamic couple. It is difficult to get a sense of who she was in her childhood and adolescence; wild, reckless, the pampered baby of Though the beginning of this book provides some strict historical information on Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the majority of it is, of necessity, a biography of her better known husband. It is a sad fact that Zelda is, essentially, an extension of him; their lives were so closely intertwined and mutually dependent that it would be impossible to look at only half of the dynamic couple. It is difficult to get a sense of who she was in her childhood and adolescence; wild, reckless, the pampered baby of the Sayre family, she took liberties and performed outlandish feats, simply to gain the attention of those around her. Of course, once she became Mrs. Fitzgerald, she and Scott, as a couple, developed a reputation for careless hedonism, becoming the defining symbols of the “Jazz Age”. But their relationship, while mutually supportive and doting, was also a fierce power struggle, a jockeying for position on the literary scene. Was she a genius, with as much, if not more, promise than him? Difficult to say; certainly she was talented, possessed an extraordinary gift for description, and her correspondence reads like poetry. Add to that the idea that she created the characters and situations for his work, as he took possession of her diaries and drew heavily on them to craft his stories. At one point, he went so far as to tell her that her experiences belonged to him, since he provided for her care. Curious, then, that he took little responsibility for his own actions, blaming her for his alcoholism and ill health. For her part, Zelda was frustrated by her professional shortcomings. It is, perhaps, a burden to believe in one’s potential for greatness, and see no path to realize it. She was driven from one frantic excess to another, seeking release for her talents and emotions, never quite achieving a satisfactory expression. As she began her solitary descent into the dark caverns of madness, Scott tried to be supportive while managing his own demons; but ultimately, she was alone, her schizophrenia creating a tragic disconnect from the world for which she desperately reached.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mmars

    Last winter I found myself embroiled in Love and Hatred: The Troubled Marriage of Leo and Sonya Tolstoy and this winter it was the FItzgeralds. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, where to begin? Eccentricity? Incalcitrance? Control freaks? Male dominance? Female depressive reaction? Creatives with behavioral disorders? Zelda was, beautifully, the epitome of "free spirit" in her youth. You know, everything you only dared to think about doing....Zelda fearlessly did it. Her mother never reined her in and h Last winter I found myself embroiled in Love and Hatred: The Troubled Marriage of Leo and Sonya Tolstoy and this winter it was the FItzgeralds. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, where to begin? Eccentricity? Incalcitrance? Control freaks? Male dominance? Female depressive reaction? Creatives with behavioral disorders? Zelda was, beautifully, the epitome of "free spirit" in her youth. You know, everything you only dared to think about doing....Zelda fearlessly did it. Her mother never reined her in and her father was of status to make sure she never suffered legal consequences. In this case, it became a recipe for disaster. She never learned control over anything - money, social behavior, parenting skills, emotions. Then throw F. Scott and the "jazz age" into the mix. Early on Scott "lifted" her writing into his. Very nasty. Understandably, that was easily the beginning of the end of whatever stability Zelda possessed. Notice that I said stability and not sanity. With proper psychological care she could at least have had a fighting chance. (And Scott needed to scuttle HIS little butt into some sort of Betty Ford Center. Which, of course, didn't exist in the 30s.) Her mental health caregivers (which also didn't exist in the 30s) were as manipulative as her husband who continued to control her care and livelihood even though he had a new young fling and lived in golden California. Zelda had no friggin' support. She was institutionalized and then when the money ran out she was turned out to her mother. Egads! There are a few things I really liked about how Nancy Mitford shaped this bio. She sucks you in with wonderful stories of Zelda's youth and walks you through the early years of their relationship and marriage. Scott plays his role. But then Zelda again becomes the focus. Then toward the end Mitford focuses on Zelda's fiction. This achieves several ends. The fiction mirrors much of Zelda's life and what Mitford has told us. But it also reveals the state of Zelda's thought patterns toward the end of her life. And they aren't what many people would consider "normal" . There's a part of me, however, that says - she never could cohesively string thoughts together in her writing and her early letters to Scott prove this. So why does society consider her crazy (as insane) when she gets older but admire her craziness (as in youthful infallability) as a teen? How many of her problems could be attibuted to her troubled marriage? Admirably, Mitford consistently avoided passing judgment in this book. On the other hand, I'm all stirred up. I fell in love with Zelda. So many "if only" thoughts running through my brain.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara Klem

    My knee-jerk reaction is to rate this book one star because, like, what the shit, F. Scott Fitzgerald? I give your LIFE a one-star rating. But alas, Nancy Milford did a wonderful job of portraying Zelda and Scott's absolutely fricked-up, codependent, abusive relationship and for that I commend her. She was detailed with her sources and citations, some might say to a fault, as some chapters did drag on, though ultimately I've decided it was fun to pick and choose which aspects of her life I'd like My knee-jerk reaction is to rate this book one star because, like, what the shit, F. Scott Fitzgerald? I give your LIFE a one-star rating. But alas, Nancy Milford did a wonderful job of portraying Zelda and Scott's absolutely fricked-up, codependent, abusive relationship and for that I commend her. She was detailed with her sources and citations, some might say to a fault, as some chapters did drag on, though ultimately I've decided it was fun to pick and choose which aspects of her life I'd like great detail on and which could be skimmed over. The first half is cautiously entertaining - Zelda was wild and funny, but in a way that makes you cringe because you know she's on the precipice of a total breakdown. Then, needless to say, it takes a turn for the truly dark and leaves you feeling utterly dead inside. It's cool though, I enjoyed it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    karenbee

    It's hard to review "Zelda" without tying in my feelings about Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and their crazy, codependent relationship. But I can't find any fault in Nancy Milford's work, and for such a long biography to hold my interest all the way through is sort of amazing, so I'm giving it five stars. 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 t It's hard to review "Zelda" without tying in my feelings about Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and their crazy, codependent relationship. But I can't find any fault in Nancy Milford's work, and for such a long biography to hold my interest all the way through is sort of amazing, so I'm giving it five stars. 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?)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    Some biographies can trudge along but this one bubbled and flowed as Zelda would probably say based on her writings and her penchant for using loads of metaphors for absolutely every concept she was trying to express. Nancy Milford spent years producing exhaustive research and it shows. She starts with Zelda's parents and Zelda's birth in Montgomery Alabama. We get an idea of the sort of family Zelda was born into and it gives us a better idea why she developed into the sort of woman she ultimatel Some biographies can trudge along but this one bubbled and flowed as Zelda would probably say based on her writings and her penchant for using loads of metaphors for absolutely every concept she was trying to express. Nancy Milford spent years producing exhaustive research and it shows. She starts with Zelda's parents and Zelda's birth in Montgomery Alabama. We get an idea of the sort of family Zelda was born into and it gives us a better idea why she developed into the sort of woman she ultimately became. While Zelda's father, Judge Sayre, was strict, formidable and emotionally detached from his family, her mother Minnie, doted on her and let her do whatever she wanted. Zelda's natural inclination was to be strong-willed and she thrived on attention. Reading about her social life exhausted me. She must have dated every single young man in Montgomery. Every weekend was filled with dances. And she was rather daring for the age (this was the 19-teens). She wore a nude colored bathing suit, not just at the beach or pool but around town. She was flirtatious, bold, and addicted to attention. She met F. Scott Fitzgerald when he was stationed in Montgomery for the war (WWI). Fitzgerald, according to his own temperament, fell for her with all the neurotic passion that forever colored his life. Through a lot of rolling hills of conflict between themselves, between her family, they finally married in 1920. Zelda was twenty years old and Fitzgerald was twenty-four. Zelda left her small, warm Southern community for the Big Apple. This might have intimidated some small town girls who had spent all their life in a certain culture but not Zelda. For her New York meant everything she adored on a larger scale: parties, drinking, and being the center of attention. Neither Fitzgerald nor Zelda had temperate personalities and everything was done in excess. They spent more than they had, they drank more than they could handle. Friends began to dread their parties. A stint in Paris was no different except that Fitzgerald's fascination with the Manic Pixie Girl he had married was beginning slightly to wane. He needed to write and their lifestyle was interfering with that. At first Zelda seemed to spur his writing, after all, all of his stories are centered around her. Reading about their life together I can safely say most of his books are autobiographical. The heroine is Zelda over and over. Some have criticized Fitzgerald saying he "stole" her writings or her ideas. That is nonsense. Milford includes scads of Zelda's writings to allow the reader to make an informed comparison. While Zelda is certainly intelligent and at times bordering on brilliant, her writing is no match for Fitzgerald's. After one gets past the glitzy gloss of her descriptive phraseology, one finds very little and much of it is incoherent. My only criticism of Fitzgerald's writing is that he simplified her. The real Zelda was more complex as Milford's biography shows. She did try to write and get published and some of her work did get published but I doubt anyone would have looked twice if she had not been Fitzgerald's wife. She also became obsessed in her late twenties, while they were living in Paris, in becoming a classic dancer. She practiced hours and hours each day with a Russian teacher. There is no coherent reason why she wanted to become a professional ballet dancer. Perhaps to find an identity seperate from her husband, but those who knew her saw strangeness from the get go. I think without her life with Scott she probably would have become insane anyway, but the excessive drinking and night life probably accelerated her decline. Frankly I don't know who was worse, Zelda, who ended up in an insane asylum or Fitzgerald, who drank and smoke himself to death at forty with a sudden heart attack. It's a fascinating study in people who are desperately trying to find meaning in their lives through outside stimulation to the point it pushes them over the edge. Maybe they were terrified of what they might have seen if they stopped and stayed still for a few moments. Their frantic rushing off the cliff was a continual running away from what was inside of them. Eventually Fitzgerald resorted to writing Hollywood scripts in order to pay debts, including Zelda's stay at a good hospital and their daughter, Scottie's, education. Very little is mentioned about Scottie. One can only wonder how the effect of two narcissistic and unstable parents affected her. She's seems to have turned out OK and married outside the glamorous world of her parents. While Fitzgerald stayed in Hollywood, Zelda had returned to Montgomery and lived with her mother, a rather invisible life it seems, after the legendary one. Her illness finally deteriorated where she had to return to the mental hospital. Her last words to her mother was, "It's OK. I'm not afraid of dying." and she ran off. Was this prophetic? She was to die in the hospital as it burned to the ground. She still outlived Fitzgerald by eight years. I suppose there will be endless fascination over this infamous couple and this is a good biography, but I don't know if it is necessary because after reading it, I realize that Fitzgerald faithfully recorded their lives in all of his stories.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenny McPhee

    ZELDA: THE MADWOMAN IN THE FLAPPER DRESS My November Column at Bookslut “Is a pen a metaphorical penis?” Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar asked in their seminal study of women writers and the literary imagination The Madwoman in the Attic (1979, reissued 2011). Their answer was a resounding, if complex, yes, resulting in our most robust and far-reaching feminist literary theory to date. “In patriarchal Western culture,” they wrote, “the text’s author is a father, a progenitor, a procreator, an aesth ZELDA: THE MADWOMAN IN THE FLAPPER DRESS My November Column at Bookslut “Is a pen a metaphorical penis?” Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar asked in their seminal study of women writers and the literary imagination The Madwoman in the Attic (1979, reissued 2011). Their answer was a resounding, if complex, yes, resulting in our most robust and far-reaching feminist literary theory to date. “In patriarchal Western culture,” they wrote, “the text’s author is a father, a progenitor, a procreator, an aesthetic patriarch whose pen is an instrument of generative power like his penis. More, his pen’s power, like his penis’s power, is not just the ability to generate life but the power to create a posterity to which he lays claim.” This power further implies “ownership” over all his “brain children” — characters, scenes, and events. “As a creation ‘penned’ by man, moreover, woman has been ‘penned up’ or ‘penned in,’” radically reduced to stereotypes (angel or monster) that seriously conflict with her own sense of self, liberty, and creativity. They show how the pen — indeed mightier than the sword — has for millennia excluded and silenced half the human race. Paradoxically, the author “silences [his characters] by depriving them of autonomy (that is, of the power of independent speech) even as he gives them life.” The authors quote the literary scholar Albert Gelpi: “The artist kills experience into art, for temporal experience can only escape death by dying into the ‘immortality’ of artistic form. The fixity of ‘life’ in art and the fluidity of ‘life’ in nature are incompatible.” Gilbert’s and Gubar’s book explored how women, increasingly becoming authors themselves in the nineteenth century, coped with ubiquitous literary paternity. A distinctively female literary tradition emerged: “images of enclosure and escape, fantasies in which maddened doubles functioned as asocial surrogates for docile selves, metaphors of physical discomfort manifested in frozen landscapes and fiery interiors — such patterns recurred throughout this tradition, along with obsessive depictions of diseases like anorexia, agoraphobia, and claustrophobia.” In response to being both locked up in, and out of, language, “female art has a hidden but crucial tradition of uncontrollable madness.” Nancy Milford’s fascinating and disturbing biography Zelda (1970, reissued 2011) tells the tragic story of a young woman from Montgomery, Alabama who had great self-confidence, ambition, intelligence, artistic talent, and sex appeal, and who was, in effect, “killed into art” by her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, the patriarchal culture she lived in, and herself. Her failed attempts to find artistic self-expression lead her to suffer from debilitating asthma, eczema, and mental illness. Born in 1900, Zelda was the cleverest, prettiest, wildest, and most talented girl in town. Scott Fitzgerald, with whom she fell in love at seventeen and married at twenty, began his immortalization of her as the quintessential “Jazz-age” flapper in his first novel This Side of Paradise (1920) as Rosalind: “She danced exceptionally well, drew cleverly but hastily, and had a startling facility with words, which she used only in love letters… She was perhaps the delicious inexpressible, once-in-a-century blend.” Much later Scott told Malcolm Cowley, “Sometimes I don’t know whether Zelda isn’t a character I created myself.” To create that character, however, Scott made a regular practice of using his wife’s persona, experience, diaries, and letters, often verbatim, for his work. Early in the Fitzgerald’s marriage, George Jean Nathan, editor of the magazine The Smart Set, read Zelda’s diaries. “They interested me so greatly,” he said, “that… I later made her an offer for them. When I informed her husband, he said that he could not permit me to publish them since he had gained a lot of inspiration from them and wanted to use parts of them in his own novels and short stories.” Zelda didn’t object. Scott was the Great Male Writer, the chronicler and prophet of the age. She was his helpmate. Asked to review Scott’s The Beautiful and Damned for the New York Tribune, however, Zelda expressed her ambivalence toward Scott’s thievery: “It also seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters, which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar… In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald… seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.” When Zelda wrote stories and essays herself, they were often published either under Scott’s name alone or jointly. Continue reading my column at www.bookslut.com

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Lennon

    Engrossing, captivating, and revealing! This portrait of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald's life together is riveting. It's a love story to two co-dependents who can't stop loving each other even when they are at odds with each other. It's a story of the all-consumed literary genius who extracts so much of his novels from the life of his wife as recorded in her journals. Yes, he steals from her life to create his own characters while weaving in his own, often dysfunctional perceptions, of intimate r Engrossing, captivating, and revealing! This portrait of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald's life together is riveting. It's a love story to two co-dependents who can't stop loving each other even when they are at odds with each other. It's a story of the all-consumed literary genius who extracts so much of his novels from the life of his wife as recorded in her journals. Yes, he steals from her life to create his own characters while weaving in his own, often dysfunctional perceptions, of intimate relationships. It's a story of excesses, a portrait of celebrity success in the 1920's and '30's in glamorous NYC and its surroundings. There's excess drinking everywhere. They move often along the east coast and the South, with major jaunts to Europe. They are restless people looking for a calm that they can't embrace. Zelda is unstable, actually mentally ill, perhaps schizophrenic, who, for years is under the care of psychiatrists with a wide range of approaches to her care and relationships with her and Scott. Zelda is an artist in her own right without the talent of her husband or the literary background. She write, paints, dances ballet in an attempt often to compete with Scott for some recognition of her own, for her value and her place in it all. At every turn this biography capture struggle--emotional, intellectual, physical, relational, mental. It's a book filled with fleeting ups and grueling downs. In all it is a love story of a most heart-wrenching type.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elisha

    As a devoted Fitzgerald fan, the time it took me to get around to reading 'Zelda' is quite absurd. This is the seminal biography of a woman whom I love and adore, and whom, prior to reading this, I'd never read a full biography of her before (only snippets in Judith Mackrell's AMAZING Flappers, as well as obviously encountering Zelda's life through Scott's in Matthew J. Bruccoli's masterful Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald). Really, I should have read this a lot sooner As a devoted Fitzgerald fan, the time it took me to get around to reading 'Zelda' is quite absurd. This is the seminal biography of a woman whom I love and adore, and whom, prior to reading this, I'd never read a full biography of her before (only snippets in Judith Mackrell's AMAZING Flappers, as well as obviously encountering Zelda's life through Scott's in Matthew J. Bruccoli's masterful Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald). Really, I should have read this a lot sooner than I did, because I would have been in a much more informed position when reading other works by and about the Fitzgeralds if I had. That's not to say that 'Zelda' is a flawless and completely accurate account, because it definitely has its faults, but, at the end of the day, you need to hear two sides of any story in order to judge fairly. This is Zelda's, and Milford does a wonderful job of reproducing the trials and tribulations which blighted Zelda's life without mythologising her into a greater or more tortured figure than she was. It is an undeniable fact that Zelda Fitzgerald suffered a lot throughout her life, chiefly because of her mental illness, symptomatic eczema, and the numerous years of sanitarium treatment she underwent as a result. Milford does not shy away from that (as the popular fictionalised account of Zelda's life, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald does), and almost as much of this book is dedicated to the difficult 1930s as to the glittering 1920s of Zelda's heyday, which I found quite refreshing. I would also say that it's a fact that Zelda Fitzgerald never reached her full potential. Despite showing interest in dancing early in life, she didn't pursue a ballet career until it was most probably too late, and consequently never reached the level that she wanted. Then her painting didn't really start until after she became ill, and THEN of course there's her writing, which was frequently overshadowed and undermined by a certain F. Scott Fitzgerald. However, whilst Milford does acknowledge this, she never moulds Zelda into a prohibited genius. She acknowledges the flaws in Zelda's various works and showcases the obsessive and sometimes dangerous tendencies that several of these works were born of. This is not a book mourning the loss of what could have been, but rather a book celebrating what was, and giving that the sustained, serious attention it deserves. For example, SO MUCH of this book is dedicated to the production, publication, and contents of Save Me the Waltz. Milford subjects the book to sustained and compelling literary criticism (although her analysis of characters seldom leaves the realm of biography) but also puts it in context. She flags the novel's issues and quotes from negative reviews, but Milford is also insistent in pointing out the various elements of good in it. I really appreciated that. As a complete Save Me the Waltz lover, I always appreciate people praising it for the literary achievement that it is rather than letting it get lost (as seems often to be the case) in what was going on around it at the time. And Milford's treatment of Save Me the Waltz sets the tone for the rest of this biography. 'Zelda' is a celebration and reclamation of the life of a previously undersung woman, but it never unduly crosses the line into glorification. Milford remains fair throughout, and, because of that, the story she tells feels all the more human and all the more heartbreaking. Although there are parts of this book focused on Scott's achievements, and parts during some of the Fitzgeralds' many separations where Milford details what Scott was up to in as much, if not more, detail as Zelda, Zelda Fitzgerald deservedly remains centre-stage throughout this entire book. This is the story of her life and her legacy, and that is just what I wanted. Significant attention is given to Zelda pre- and post-Scott (this is the first time I've properly read about Zelda's final eight years because most previous accounts of the Fitzgeralds' lives ends at Scott's death) and by the end of it a whole, full, non-mythologised person emerges. Milford provides us with way more than the classic Zelda Fitzgerald, flapper/muse of F. Scott Fitzgerald/'crazy lady' image so often perpetuated. This felt to me like a really holistic portrait, and I think I needed to read it. There's so much more to this iconic woman I claim to love than I'd previously realised, and it was good to encounter the sad, undesirable, and uncomplimentary bits of new information as much as it was to make pleasing new discoveries about Zelda. I feel that I have a much greater understanding of who she was now. Also, I appreciated that Milford didn't completely villainise F. Scott Fitzgerald. I mean, it's not like she romanticises him either. She includes a lot of details about his various mistreatments of Zelda which cannot be overlooked and also showcases the desperate, destructive, and sometimes plain annoying parts of his personality. However, I got the feeling throughout that Milford knew that Scott was just as complex a person as Zelda and had almost as many issues of his own (but was far less open to help). The picture that I got of the Fitzgeralds' marriage from reading this is one of co-dependency and toxicity that was inherently unhealthy and caused damage on both sides. I don't think that either one ruined the other, and I don't think that Milford does either. They certainly didn't always help each other (the Save Me the Waltz debacle is painful to read and THAT recorded interview they gave with Zelda's doctor really really REALLY puts Scott in a bad light), but they tried, and their love did last until the end in one form or another, although of course much damage had been done. As with Milford's characterisation of Zelda, the image that emerges here is a complex one, which doesn't straightforwardly fall into one category or another. Having previously read oversimplifications on both sides, that was refreshing. However, I am still not yet prepared to take it as gospel. To my knowledge, parts of 'Zelda' had to be censored and cut because of concerns (putting it lightly) from the Fitzgeralds' daughter, Scottie. For that reason, I suspect that there's still more to this tale than Milford has been able to uncover, and I'll definitely be seeking out more recent biographies of both Zelda and Scott to verify that. Also, the possible censorship (which I didn't read about in this article until after I'd finished the book) was not the only problem I had with 'Zelda'. As I alluded to early, Milford is very keen on conflating characters in the Fitzgeralds' works with the Fitzgeralds' themselves. That's understandable, as all of their writings were quite obviously at least partially autobiographical, but the way that Milford kept using quotations from novels to imply Zelda or Scott's thoughts or feelings about a place or person felt a bit strange to me. For example, Milford quotes a lot from Save Me the Waltz in early segments of this book to establish Zelda's feelings for her family, Montgomery, and Scott upon first meeting him, even though Zelda wrote Save Me the Waltz many years after experiencing these things, and the thoughts she records technically belong to Alabama Beggs the character rather than Zelda Fitzgerald the writer. I couldn't get entirely on board with that. Also, Milford presumes Zelda's feelings and reactions in places, claiming that Zelda 'must have' responded to x situation with y behaviour. Again, this is speculative, and I was slightly iffy with it. Also, it bothered me immensely that Milford only had access to the letters Zelda wrote to Scott and not the letters Scott wrote to Zelda. That's in no way her fault and for all I know Scott's letters may still be 'lost' as she claims, but once again it casts a couple of little doubts upon the narrative being told. All of these issues can be overlooked and don't majorly spoil the reading experience, however, and I hope to find solutions to these problems in reading the further biographies of Zelda Fitzgerald which Milford unquestionably paved the way for. All in all, I'm really, REALLY glad to have finally read this, and I'm glad to say that I came away from it happy. My view of my two favourite literary people has definitely shifted slightly, but neither of them are permanently ruined in my eyes; they're just a little more complex than they were before. Moreover, I'm really pleased with Milford's overall style, presentation, and research. I've heard a couple of criticisms of this biography as 'dated' and as a result I worried a little bit about what I would find, but, aside from the conflation of text with biography, all seems pretty fine to me. It may have its faults, but this biography is undoubtedly an achievement, and it's one for which Milford deserves endless praise because she paved the way for whole new ways of considering Zelda Fitzgerald. I'm really thankful that this biography exists, and I think that, if Zelda herself had some way of reading it, she would be too.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matty

    This is not going to be a formal review by any means, but I do want to share my thoughts. I have so say that if you’re a fan of Zelda, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or even his work I highly recommend reading this. I’ve been a fan of Zelda Fitzgerald, but never knew too much about her life, other than she was the wife of F. Scott & that she was the original flapper as many believe. This book gives so much insight to her life, but I feel this could also be of biography of Scott’s as well, because of how This is not going to be a formal review by any means, but I do want to share my thoughts. I have so say that if you’re a fan of Zelda, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or even his work I highly recommend reading this. I’ve been a fan of Zelda Fitzgerald, but never knew too much about her life, other than she was the wife of F. Scott & that she was the original flapper as many believe. This book gives so much insight to her life, but I feel this could also be of biography of Scott’s as well, because of how much their life revolved around each other. There were so many things I didn’t know before, and just how much Zelda influenced Scott’s stories. It does make me want to read all his work, & read her’s as well. The author has done amazing research, and it’s great that she was able to speak with the people that knew them personally. There were portions of this book that seemed to drag on a bit. Overall, as I said before, I highly recommend reading this & so glad I picked this up.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    I never thought I'd even want to read about Zelda Fitzgerald because I read all about Hemingway first and he didn't like her and I admit that influenced my opinion of her. Then one day I read that she died in a fire in mental hospital. That piqued my interest so I bought the book and am glad to say was not disappointed. I still don't "like" Zelda, but do understand her as a person more because of this extremely detailed book. It is one of the better biographies I've ever read. F.Scott Fitzgerald I never thought I'd even want to read about Zelda Fitzgerald because I read all about Hemingway first and he didn't like her and I admit that influenced my opinion of her. Then one day I read that she died in a fire in mental hospital. That piqued my interest so I bought the book and am glad to say was not disappointed. I still don't "like" Zelda, but do understand her as a person more because of this extremely detailed book. It is one of the better biographies I've ever read. F.Scott Fitzgerald is part of the package of course. After reading Zelda, I don't feel the need to read his bio, Nancy Milford has told me everything I ever wanted to know about him too. I like reading about the 20's and all those glamourous Americans abroud in the years between the wars. This book gives you all the details, and I was not surprised at all that none of them really had as grand a time as the pictures make it look. What a price they all paid for all the debauchery. I liked the book, it provoked a sense of pity for this fragile, mentally ill china doll that was Zelda. I won't read it again, not because it's not good, but because it is more of an educational book than one I turn to for pleasure. It is the most thourough book I've read on life between the wars.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laetitia

    I will never read F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels the same way again. I knew that Zelda was his muse, his inspiration - but I didn't know that his novels were autobiographical. I am shocked that Zelda and her husband did not separate their personal lives from Scott's professional life at all. It took a true toll on them, which they didn't seem to realize until it was too late. They're the perfect example of two people that should have never been together. Scott wanted to dominate Zelda but she clear I will never read F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels the same way again. I knew that Zelda was his muse, his inspiration - but I didn't know that his novels were autobiographical. I am shocked that Zelda and her husband did not separate their personal lives from Scott's professional life at all. It took a true toll on them, which they didn't seem to realize until it was too late. They're the perfect example of two people that should have never been together. Scott wanted to dominate Zelda but she clearly did not want to be dominated. Milford stresses how Zelda kept wanting to have something for herself, which Scott clearly did not want her to have. As a result Zelda loved pushing Scott's buttons. It's obvious that they destroyed each other's lives. I found interesting that Scott copied sentences from Zelda's diary without her permission. He also took writing credit for several stories she wrote. I can see how that possibly contributed to Zelda thinking of herself as a failure and not being good enough. This is a great biography for anybody who is curious about the Fitzgeralds as a couple. I should mention, however, that the biography was initially a PhD piece and it reads like one too. It's not hard to understand but it can be a bit dense.

  22. 4 out of 5

    rhea

    I found this book for .50¢ at a book sale and I had heard about how interesting she was, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out. I already got teased that it had to be because of the video game, The Legend of Zelda, that I cared. The character of the game was named for Fitzgerald, so maybe knowing all of this did subconsciously make me more interested in the topic. A lot of the reviews seem to be reviewing the characters, their actions and their lives, this seems odd to me. Milfor I found this book for .50¢ at a book sale and I had heard about how interesting she was, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out. I already got teased that it had to be because of the video game, The Legend of Zelda, that I cared. The character of the game was named for Fitzgerald, so maybe knowing all of this did subconsciously make me more interested in the topic. A lot of the reviews seem to be reviewing the characters, their actions and their lives, this seems odd to me. Milford has a lot of information in this book that clearly comes from great research. She told the story well and as a person who likes to read about mental health or someone going through psychological issues, this was an interesting read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Incredible story of love, dependency, and mental illness. Zelda was an artist in her own right, and I'd like to think that with the correct diagnosis--she would have been able to stand on her own. Scott, though he loved her, put too much doubt in her. His dependence on alcohol exacerbated what was wrong with their marriage. Instead of trying to fix her, he should have been working on himself--alas the suffering artist... Incredible story of love, dependency, and mental illness. Zelda was an artist in her own right, and I'd like to think that with the correct diagnosis--she would have been able to stand on her own. Scott, though he loved her, put too much doubt in her. His dependence on alcohol exacerbated what was wrong with their marriage. Instead of trying to fix her, he should have been working on himself--alas the suffering artist...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shiloh

    This book haunted me when I read it as a teen. Partially, because it followed a life so charming and lively into the ravages of bad marriage and mental collapse. However, it left a lot of unanswered questions and is hardly definitive. There have been some new things written which exceed the scope of this book, but taken alone it is a powerful portrait, though tragic.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Megankellie

    I'd like Zelda Fitzgerald to be someone you could get to know and then at the end say "haha, now I understand why Scott Fitzgerald can cause time travel with words and metaphor and why I want to eat his books with my hands and mouth." I think the only way to get that would be to be sitting in their bedroom very late at night and following a really good conversation between them with no one listening or watching and maybe you could see them both being so open and raw that you would get it. Some o I'd like Zelda Fitzgerald to be someone you could get to know and then at the end say "haha, now I understand why Scott Fitzgerald can cause time travel with words and metaphor and why I want to eat his books with my hands and mouth." I think the only way to get that would be to be sitting in their bedroom very late at night and following a really good conversation between them with no one listening or watching and maybe you could see them both being so open and raw that you would get it. Some of the letters that were included in here as evidence of Zelda starting to lose it, well, I understood them. So, that's a fun way to worry you are a budding schizophrenic? This is a sad portrait of a time before anyone knew anything about the genetics behind alcoholism or schizophrenia and what things got blamed on instead of the reality of things. How different would they be now with AA and drugs? I mean she's kind of a tragic portrait and clearly no one has captured them on film. Some things are haunting, like that she foretold her own death, or that she knew a train would be late because the ghost of Scott came to tell her. I watched a youtube video (duh) about the demons that come for you when you're schizophrenic. So add to that a guy you have tied your self-worth to who gets cruel when he gets bombed and...whee! This is a very factual book and I guess I'm looking for historical fiction? The big takeaway is how much Scott depended on her as a creative collaborator, how he took from her letters, and how she really was not Daisy Fay. She was not someone in love with Fitzgerald only for his money. That whole worth-comes-from-cash theme of Fitzgerald's writing clearly comes from him, not from a small town southern girl with a puritan streak. She also was proud of the fact that she didn't like women, which is confusing and frustrating when you want her to be a feminist hero. You're complicated Zelda. And Scott, well, that's a tough row to hoe.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Vance

    It's disturbing to me that even after the publication of this exhaustively researched book, people still prefer Scotty's version over Zelda's. What I understand is that F. Scott Fitzgerald was jealous of his more talented wife, stole from her diaries and published her words as his own, simultaneously having her committed to various mental institutions and making it worth the psychiatrists' while to keep her there. He tells her that her memories actually belong to him and she has no right to them It's disturbing to me that even after the publication of this exhaustively researched book, people still prefer Scotty's version over Zelda's. What I understand is that F. Scott Fitzgerald was jealous of his more talented wife, stole from her diaries and published her words as his own, simultaneously having her committed to various mental institutions and making it worth the psychiatrists' while to keep her there. He tells her that her memories actually belong to him and she has no right to them, since he's the famous writer (and how much of that fame is based on her talent?) I hope the Me-Too movement wakes people up to this sort of abuse that was regularly perpetrated against women at least up into the 1960s.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    "Half of our friends would tell you in all seriousness that my drinking drove Zelda mad. The other half would tell you that her madness drove me to drink." - Scott Fitzgerald This was a very in depth biography, and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald is a fascinating and enigmatic subject for Milford to take on. The early years of the Fitzgeralds are by far the easiest to read through, and the most fun to be immersed in, but the author renders the blow out fights and drunken routs with just as much meticulous "Half of our friends would tell you in all seriousness that my drinking drove Zelda mad. The other half would tell you that her madness drove me to drink." - Scott Fitzgerald This was a very in depth biography, and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald is a fascinating and enigmatic subject for Milford to take on. The early years of the Fitzgeralds are by far the easiest to read through, and the most fun to be immersed in, but the author renders the blow out fights and drunken routs with just as much meticulous detail as time goes on. She chronicles Zelda's descent into mental illness with exceptional skill, and uses primary source letters, writings, and interviews to created a very full picture of Zelda's character. Her distinctive syntax and conversational leaps come alive in the pages. You do finish this book feeling that you know her a little, no matter how mysterious she somehow remains. It is interesting to get the impression that Zelda, despite her illness, seems to age a bit more gracefully than Scott. And it is also remarkable to discover the extent to which Zelda's own writing contributed to Scott's female characters. Her diary entries, letters, and conversation seem to have been lifted quite entirely and transposed with little revision into almost every major Fitzgerald work. I was also unaware that she wrote many of his magazine stories, which he then put both of their names on to increase the chances for publication and the eventual pay day. Her obsession in later life with the ballet was intriuging, and her eventual break downs are terrible to behold even on paper. My only criticism of the book is that it is sometimes too dense. The chapters that are novel summarizations, for example, are quite unwieldy. And often, it seems that Milford includes two or three letters to drive home a point that could have been adequately made with one. Images, on the other hand, especially when discussing Zelda's paintings, would have been wonderful inclusions. I went online and looked at the Acrobats painting that was given to the Murphys, and was surprised at its vigor and also its grotesque qualities...no matter how descriptive Milford was about that piece, seeing actual examples included would have been a good compliment to the discussion of Zelda's life during that time period. Overall, the story was a tragic one with all its brilliant highs and despairing lows covered by the scope of this epic biography.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Zelda Fitzgerald was the inspiration/model for many of F. Scott Fitzgerald's heroines and a talented writer and artist in her own right. Nancy Milford writes in the introduction of this classic biography, "She was the American girl living the American dream, and she became mad within it". Nancy Milford did extensive research and interviewed an amazing number of people who knew or had met Zelda. The book covers Zelda's family background and growing up in Montgomery, Alabama as a reckless beauty, Zelda Fitzgerald was the inspiration/model for many of F. Scott Fitzgerald's heroines and a talented writer and artist in her own right. Nancy Milford writes in the introduction of this classic biography, "She was the American girl living the American dream, and she became mad within it". Nancy Milford did extensive research and interviewed an amazing number of people who knew or had met Zelda. The book covers Zelda's family background and growing up in Montgomery, Alabama as a reckless beauty, her relationship and marriage with F. Scott Fitzgerald and their party life in the Jazz age, her breakdown due to mental illness and continued problems, and the dissolution of her close but codependent marriage during the nineteen thirties. There are extensive excerpts from her letters and other writings, including her semi-autobiographical novel, "Save Me the Waltz". Her voice is all her own, as in this excerpt from a letter, ”I think I like breathing twilit gardens and moths more than beautiful pictures or good books–It seems the most sensual of all the senses–Something in me vibrates to a dusky, dreamy smell– a smell of dying moons and shadows”.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jan C

    I think I read this when I was recuperating from an automobile accident and had beaucoup time on my hands. It was very enjoyable and I think got me caught up in getting books on Fitzgerald, the Murphys, Dorothy Parker, etc., that whole crowd in other words. She did have mental problems and if you look at her entire life, you can see them showing up here and there all along the way. I believe she wrote one book and I have heard it questioned, either in print or interviews laterly, whether she was I think I read this when I was recuperating from an automobile accident and had beaucoup time on my hands. It was very enjoyable and I think got me caught up in getting books on Fitzgerald, the Murphys, Dorothy Parker, etc., that whole crowd in other words. She did have mental problems and if you look at her entire life, you can see them showing up here and there all along the way. I believe she wrote one book and I have heard it questioned, either in print or interviews laterly, whether she was actually talented in this regard. And whether that is the reason she went to the Sanatarium. Because Scott couldn't stand to compete with her. But I don't buy that argument. She may have been talented but was she as talented as he? Or were people only interested in what she had written because of who she was married to? She was a madcap woman from the twenties who jumped into fountains and acted zany. Others acted zany, too, but they were never deemed wacky enough to be locked up. They had madcap moments, she just went mad.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    Over the years, I've read a lot about Scott & Zelda. I'm so sorry I didn't read this book first. I tore through the text and whenever I wasn't reading thought about Zelda and her story almost constantly. Milford's text allows the reader to appreciate Zelda Fitzgerald for all that she was: muse, spitfire, madwoman, and most of all, victim. Milford uses Zelda's own words -- culled from her own correspondence, diaries, and fiction -- to document mental illness in a vivid and frightening way. In my Over the years, I've read a lot about Scott & Zelda. I'm so sorry I didn't read this book first. I tore through the text and whenever I wasn't reading thought about Zelda and her story almost constantly. Milford's text allows the reader to appreciate Zelda Fitzgerald for all that she was: muse, spitfire, madwoman, and most of all, victim. Milford uses Zelda's own words -- culled from her own correspondence, diaries, and fiction -- to document mental illness in a vivid and frightening way. In my previous studies of the couple, I somehow never grasped that Zelda was more than just petulant, sulky, and eccentric (although she was all of those things as well). She was a delusional schizophrenic with a semi-abusive, alcoholic, genius of a husband. In other words, she never had a chance. This book will leave you with a greater depth of understanding and empathy for Zelda ... and a good reason to revisit Tender is the Night!

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