Review: Zelda

TITLE: Zelda
AUTHOR: Nancy Milford
PUBLICATION: 1970 by Avon Books
FORMAT: Paperback


Witty, indulged, capricious, Zelda Sayre thoroughly enjoyed exercising the prerogatives of a belle. Her escapades became the scandal of her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. When she married F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1920 after a stormy two-year courtship, her life seemed the natural extension of her Montgomery existence, played on a larger stage–New York, Paris, the Riviera. The epitome of the Jazz Age, they rode the crest of the era to its collapse, and their own.


I found this book on the sale shelf at the library last summer. It kind of got lost among my many other books in the intervening months, but I discovered it while clearing off my shelves of books that I wanted to give away. At this point in time I find myself in the mood for literature regarding the Fitzgeralds, so it’s perhaps the perfect excuse to read it.

This book is divided into four parts. The first half had a steady flow of describing Zelda’s origins and then her flamboyant marriage to Scott Fitzgerald. I found Milford’s writings very easy to follow without the usual distractions or boredom I feel when attempting to read biographies. I was looking forward to returning to Zelda each time I put it down. It was very easy to lose track of time while reading this biography. This book contains several letters written by Zelda as well as recollections that other people had upon knowing or meeting her. I think that my favorite of her letters are the ones where she’s in recovery at an institution. Upon reflection I don’t think that I would have wanted to have Zelda Sayre as my friend while growing up. She seemed the type of female companion I would have avoided. And I suppose that I wouldn’t make a very good flapper by extension!

It was interesting to read of Zelda and Scott’s marriage. Knowing what kind of girl he was marrying and how she behaved after their marriage, did Scott really expect Zelda to not be tempted to a fling as what happened in 1924? Although I liked how Milford didn’t just focus on Zelda during this period but also gave a fair overview and evaluation of Scott during this time. Many of Scott’s friends suggested that he would be better off without Zelda and it made me wonder how things would have been different if he had heeded their advice. Would his writings have been better or worse with a different woman as the model for his heroine’s muse?

It seemed there was a great deal of time spent in part three when Zelda was in and out of mental institutions and clinics recounting her novels and there’s a complete synopsis of the books that I ended up skipping because I didn’t want too much spoilers since I still have a lot of classics left to read. My reading of other books has spoiled things for me enough. I don’t know if my interest was waning in the book, but it felt like the “Breaking Down” section of Milford’s biography tended to drag on more than was necessary. Perhaps by this point I wasn’t interested in every little possible detail that could be discovered about the Fitzgeralds at this stage of the narrative.

Overall I have to admit that it was a good biography to read about Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. You can tell in the writing that Ms. Milford was passionate about her subject and aimed to be very thorough in delving into her life.



3 thoughts on “Review: Zelda

    • I knew a little bit about Scott before reading this, but learning about Zelda was interesting too. I have a few biographies about Scott Fitzgerald that I plan on getting from the library later this year. Midnight in Paris has started something!

  1. I’ve been interested in reading this book since I read Zelda’s only novel, Save Me the Waltz, so I’m glad to hear it was pretty good—and engaging. (I also tend to get bored when I try to read biographies.) There’s no doubt that Zelda was a fascinating person, but I agree with you that I probably would not have wanted to be friends with her! I will have to put this on my “to read” list.

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