The Life of Bon: Bon's Book Club: Z by Therese Ann Fowler

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bon's Book Club: Z by Therese Ann Fowler

Hello and welcome to book club!

(If you are new around here and want to join in for book club, it's super easy!  Just read the book and then come back here on the last Thursday of the month to discuss.  Full details are here.)

 (If you link up I'd love you to slap this image on your post somewhere.  Please and thank you!)

2014 Book Club Schedule:

January: The Husband's Secret by Liane Mortiary (January 30)  Discussion here.
February:  I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (February 27) Discussion here.
March: Divergent by Veronica Roth (March 27) Discussion here.
April:  Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern (April 24) Discussion here.
May:  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (May 29). Discussion here.
June:  Matilda by Roald Dahl (June 26). Discussion here.
July:  In Cold Blood  by Truman Capote (July 31).  Discussion here.
August:  Brain on Fire: by Susannah Cahalan (August 27).  Discussion here.
September:  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 

October:  Z by Therese Ann Fowler (October 23)

November:  Wonder by R.J. Palacio (November 20)
December: My Story by Elizabeth Smart (December 30)

Alrighty folks!  I hereby declare that I officially LOVED a book that we read for book club this year.  Up until this month I was pretty sure that Book club 2014 was going to be a total bust for me and then Z came along and changed it all for me.

Some book club questions to get you started if you don't know what to post about:

+ How did you feel about Fowler writing as if she were Zelda?  Did you feel she took liberties with this?
+ Did you feel bad for Zelda?  Why or why not?
+ What did you think of the way Zelda and Scott's marriage was portrayed?
+ Anything surprising that you learned from the book?

A couple of years ago I read The Paris Wife about Ernest Hemingway's marriage to his first wife, Hadley, and I loved it.  Because of that I had high hopes for Z.  I don't think I liked Z quite as much as The Paris Wife (I thought The Paris Wife did a better job at getting the readers inside the head of Hadley and establishing a deeper and more effective emotional connection), but I still really loved it.

The 1920s is an era that totally fascinates me.  I'm also a big The Great Gatsby fan, so I really was pretty stoked about this book.  You get the picture yet?  I was excited to read the book!

First off, I went in knowing that this book was based on fact, but obviously it wasn't 100% fact.  Conversations between characters and certain details had to be fictionalized, but I do feel like Fowler did her best to remain as true as possible to what really happened.  There were a few things I had no idea about-- that Scott and Zelda aborted a baby just a few months after their first child was born, that Zelda tried to become a professional dancer, and I had no idea that Zelda died after being trapped in a building on fire.  I was also surprised to see how young Scott was when he died.  I knew he was young, just didn't fully realize he was that young.

Another thing that surprised me about the book was the attitude toward women.  I don't necessarily consider myself a raging feminist, but then I read something like this and I guess maybe I am?  The thing that drove me the most crazy was how Zelda would act like there was nothing she could do about it when she suspected Scott of fooling around with other women.  There's one part where they get in a fight and then Scott comes home smelling like another woman's perfume and she doesn't say a word about it.  Also, early on in their marriage Scott hits Zelda and she acts like it's no big deal.  Later, after they have the baby, Zelda complains about how bored she is.  Scott works all day on his writing, the baby has a nanny and poor little Zelda is just bored bored bored.  So she goes to the beach and swims all day.  But she's still lonely.  Boo hoo!  These scenes were just really hard for me to read in the sense that it drove me crazy that Zelda didn't want more or expect more from her life or from the people in her life.

I do think that Fowler portrayed Zelda a little more sympathetically than is probably correct.  From reading the book Scott is portrayed as a thoughtless ego-maniac husband, and Zelda just the poor woman who is along for the ride.  I know Scott was alcoholic and erratic in his behavior, but I do think Zelda played into it a lot more.  Z made it seem that Scott was the total partier, and Zelda just kind of got sucked into it.  Any research I've read definitely indicates that Zelda enjoyed the partying and alcoholic lifestyle just as much as Scott did.

I think the real tragedy of the book (and of the Fitzgeralds' lives) is how their family deteriorated.  Toward the end of Scott's life, Zelda has almost no relationship with him even though they are still married, (He lives in California and she lives in Alabama) and almost no relationship with her daughter who is attending college.  It just seems like they sacrificed their family for the fame and the glory.

Oh- that was one other thing I wanted to mention.  I really loved how Fowler portrayed Scott in terms of his ambition.  I know that his desire to be someone great, to be famous, to be the best really motivated him, to the point of obsession oftentimes.  It was so interesting to read how that desire for notability and fame colored every aspect of their lives.  Scott was never satisfied, never happy no matter how many books he was selling or how much money he was making.  He never felt like he had finally arrived.  (Given, he sold many more books after his death.)  I feel like he was almost plagued by his desire for greatness.  I wonder if he does little jumps for joy in his grave now for every eleventh grade class that has to read The Great Gatsby.

What did y'all think of the book?  I hope you liked it as much as I did!  For November we are reading Wonder.  It is geared for a much younger audience, but it supposed to be absolutely terrific.  Pick up a copy and down it before Thanksgiving so you can be ready to book talk.  Ah yah!

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