Nancy Milford's biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, is comprised of letters, journals, literary works and anecdotes from people who knew Zelda well. Zelda was born in Alabama at the turn of the century, and had a privileged childhood. She was the baby of a wealthy and eccentric southern family and was a famous belle throughout her life as a young adult. She met young F. Scott Fitzgerald while his military regiment was stationed nearby, and they married not long after. In New York, they became the center of a wild group of artists, writers, and drinkers, and were acquainted with celebrities including Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Their wild parties, binge drinking, and explosive fights are described as both comical and tragic.
Later, already rich and famous as the archetypal "flappers," the Fitzgeralds spent time on the French Riviera, where Zelda had a dramatic affair with a French pilot and threatened to commit suicide. The facts about Zelda's abortive literary career (she completed one very autobiographical novel), her powerful influence on Scott's writing, and her obsessive devotion to ballet dancing are also explored in detail. Throughout her later life, Zelda spent time in sanatariums and mental hospitals, where she began to paint in a modern, surrealistic style. Many of the love letters that passed between Zelda and Scott during times of separation are quoted at length, and are full of romantic eloquence. Zelda died in 1948 during a fire at the mental asylum where she was a patient, not long after Scott died of a heart attack, perhaps combined with the results of a lifetime of heavy drinking.
This report prepared by Jacqueline West