Z Is for Zelda: 11 Novels to Cure Your Fitzgerald Fever
For almost a century, the world (this list writer included!) has been fascinated by Zelda Fitzgerald, the tempestuous and troubled wife of one of America’s most beloved writers. The epitome of a flapper, her legacy of rebellion and glamour are practically synonymous with the era. Now it seems that she’s getting the credit she deserves with a miniseries to bring her story to life. Here are some binge-worthy books about Zelda Fitzgerald to keep you going long after the finale.
It seems odd to start a list about Zelda Fitzgerald with a book that isn’t about her, but Caroline Preston’s novel is equally important, as it revolves around the first love of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, Ginevra. The two met while Scott was a student at Princeton and she is thought to have inspired the character of Daisy Buchanan. Preston imagines Ginevra’s life after their relationship, as she marries another man, becomes a mother, and watches her former love ascend and then, just as quickly, fall from grace.
2Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Therese Anne Fowler’s Z, which inspired Amazon’s new series, tells the story of how the reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre became the iconic Zelda Fitzgerald. The novel opens with her introduction to tall, handsome Scott, whom she quickly marries, and chronicles her life of parties, novels, scandal, and, ultimately, tragedy that takes the reader from Alabama to Paris, New York to Hollywood, the French Riviera and back again.
Though expats Sara and Gerald Murphy are rarely remembered alongside their more famous counterparts, the Fitzgeralds and the Hemingways, they played vital roles in the Lost Generation. VILLA AMERICA vividly brings to life the lavish paradise of champagne, romance, and secrets on the French Riviera that they created for themselves and their friends, until a young American aviator arrived and changed everything.
In Zelda Fitzgerald’s case, sometimes truth is more exciting than fiction. Nancy Milford’s bestselling biography covers Zelda’s entire life, focusing on the clash between her personal ambition and private struggles, and is one of the most comprehensive works on literature’s most misunderstood heroine.
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald was at the height of his fame and about to publish his fourth book. About the same time he returned to New York, the discovery of a brutal double murder made headlines in nearby New Jersey and was thought to be the inspiration for Fitzgerald’s most enduring work, THE GREAT GATSBY. Part biography, part literary investigation, CARELESS PEOPLE tells a fascinating backstory that interweaves the Fitzgeralds with the world around them.
6Guests on Earth
When Evalina Toussaint, orphaned and only 13 years old, is committed to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, she is taken under the wing of its most famous patient, Zelda Fitzgerald. As she undergoes “innovative” treatments and moves between the worlds of art and madness, Evalina learns more about her famous friend and witnesses a cascade of events that culminates in the tragic fire that will take Zelda’s life.
If all of Zelda’s shenanigans have you feeling a bit rebellious, Judith Mackrell’s group biography of six women who defined the Roaring Twenties, Fitzgerald included, will be the perfect pick. Though they came from vastly different backgrounds, they all collided in Jazz Age Paris, where they challenged conventions and changed the definition of what it means to be a modern woman.
8Call Me Zelda
Zelda’s breakdowns and tragic end are a big part of her legend. CALL ME ZELDA confronts her difficult time in a Baltimore clinic in 1932 through the eyes of a nurse, Anna Howard. As she watches Zelda move between madness and lucidity, Anna becomes privy to her most intimate confessions and memories, which leads her to wonder who the true genius in the Fitzgerald marriage was.
Was Zelda destined for madness, or did the Fitzgeralds’ dysfunctional relationship lead to her undoing? R. Clifton Spargo seeks to answer this question in his heartbreaking novel, BEAUTIFUL FOOLS. Despite the fact that he has been living in Hollywood and having a long-term affair, Scott takes Zelda to Cuba for one last trip in an attempt to save their relationship.
10West of Sunset
In 1939, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, out-of-work writer who moved to Hollywood in search of screenwriting work. He would be dead three years later, and Stewart O’Nan’s novel imagines the period beautifully, if not sadly. Though Zelda rarely appears (she had been committed to an asylum during this period), her absence is palpable throughout the novel and really brings Scott’s devotion and guilt about her condition to the forefront.
11The Beautiful and Damned
It’s generally believed that Scott and Zelda’s relationship inspired THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAMNED, which followed his massive hit TENDER IS THE NIGHT. Anthony Patch, an Army serviceman and heir to a tycoon’s fortune, meets and marries the wild, passionate (and sometimes selfish) Gloria Gilbert. What follows is a roller-coaster relationship that rivals its real-life counterpart.