“Z”: An Extraordinary Woman’s Story

Z by Theresa Ann Fowler is the story of a woman who was quite remarkable for her time and whose marriage to one of the most famous writers in the literary canon has fascinated many over the years. Z is the story of Zelda Sayre’s life from her years growing up in Montgomery to the fateful meeting with a boy with “Irish Sea eyes” that changed the course of her life forever. Zelda was the daughter of an Alabama judge and had a great passion for dance. On the night of her last performance with her dance school she had her first glimpse of the man who would take her on a journey into a world she had never experienced before.

This man was Scott Fitzgerald, a lieutenant with the US Marine Corps, who was briefly stationed in Montgomery before heading off to France to fight in World War I. Zelda and Scott spent a few weeks together before he had to leave for France. Fortunately he never had to face battle and came back to Montgomery again to see her. He told her that he was a writer who had sent his novel to Scribner’s, a publishing house in New York, that was then one of the most prestigious publishing houses in America. Her father thought that he should enter into a profession that would provide him with a more stable livelihood than writing.

Scott proposed to her two years after they met in 1918 and in 1920 Zelda became known as Zelda Fitzgerald once they married in New York at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Scott was now a newly famous writer who had finally had his first novel, This Side of Paradise, published by Scribner’s. He introduced her to some of his former classmates from Princeton and admirers of his work. She was so proud of his great accomplishment and enjoyed the parties and gatherings they went to together.

Things changed though when she became pregnant with her only child, a girl, who was named Frances Scott Fitzgerald and was nicknamed “Scottie” by Scott. At the time of Scottie’s birth, they were living in Paris and met other artists and writers. Zelda began dancing again and started to dabble in writing. Any story of hers that was published though had Scott’s name before hers because of his popularity as a writer.

This was to become one of the many issues that affected their relationship. Scott was very controlling and wanted her to focus more on managing the household. He drank heavily which dramatically affected their marriage.

Z was a book that took me into the life of a woman I had known little about before reading the book. Fowler’s Zelda was a woman who was very active and wanted to establish a name for herself. In a period of history when women were still very much subordinate to men, she tried to prove that she was as capable as her husband at achieving great things. This is a book I would highly recommend to anyone who loves reading about extraordinary women.

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