In the last few years, the novels I’ve read with real people as characters have fallen into two categories.
They’re either real people investigating grisly, imaginary crimes (THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER; THE AXEMAN’S JAZZ), or they’re wives of literary figures of the Jazz Age (this; THE PARIS WIFE.) There must have been others on the bestseller shelves in recent years, but if there are, I’m struggling to think of them. Indeed, a quick google search not only failed to throw up anything that might buck the trend, but revealed that there’s actually a cottage industry of authors writing novels about Zelda Fitzgerald. There are currently four – that’s four! – recently published or set for publication.
I hope the others do a better job with the material than Z: A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD. Annoyingly, for a book about two such young and sparkling literary darlings, it’s frequently boring and unforgivably clunky. This is a novel where a character finding herself at one of life’s crossroads, will actually picture herself at a crossroad – just in case the reader doesn’t properly get the idea.
Rather than continue down two different paths – real people investigating murders, or books about Zelda Fitzgerald (or Hedley Hemingway) – it strikes me that these two sub-genres should merge. I think the plodding pace of this book could have been improved considerably by throwing in a couple of grisly murders. Maybe Cole Porter gets it before his time, Hemingway is the obvious subject for Zelda, while Dorothy Parker utters bons-mots and turns out – after Gertrude Stein gets it in the Salon, crushed by the full weight of the Encyclopedia Britannica – to be the killer all along.
If anyone out there is working on their own Zelda Fitzgerald novel and struggling to make it unique then – please – take the idea, it’s yours!