Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: Call Me Zelda

Call Me ZeldaAuthor: Erika Robuck
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: NAL Trade

From the author of Hemingway’s Girl comes a richly imagined tale of Zelda Fitzgerald’s love, longing, and struggle against ever-threatening insanity.

From New York to Paris, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald reigned as king and queen of the Jazz Age, but those who really knew them saw their inner turmoil.

Committed to a Baltimore psychiatric hospital in 1932, Zelda vacillates between lucidity and madness as she fights to forge an identity independent of her famous husband. She discovers a sympathetic ear in her nurse Anna Howard, who finds herself drawn into the Fitzgerald’s tumultuous lives and wonders which of them is the true genius. But in taking greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she ever intended.

In this thoroughly researched, deeply moving novel, Erika Robuck explores the boundaries of female friendship, the complexity of marital devotion, and the sources of both art and madness.

Mrs. Fitzgerald's eyes, however, would not leave my mind. I had no idea what those haunting eyes would lead me to do. If I'd known then, I don't think I would have become as involved as I did.

"I hope they'll have tomato sandwiches at lunch," said Zelda. "I adore tomato sandwiches and lemonade. It's all I ate in Alabama."

"I'm not familiar with the salamander," I said. "A mythic lizard, purified by fire," she said. "A woman who burns through men to find her one true love." She struck a match and lit a cigarette, inhaling deeply and filling the space around her with her exhalations.

This story is the first one that I have read, fictional or non-fictional, written about the lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Although, I have always been interested in their story and a huge fan of the time period they belonged to. This book is not told from Zelda's point of view, but is instead told by Anna Howard, who is a nurse in the psychiatric clinic that Zelda belongs to. While parts of the story are Anna's, others belong to Zelda and F. Scott and they weave in and out of the story as it is told through Anna's eyes. Anna quickly bonds with Zelda and understands why Zelda is where she is now. While Zelda is famous, of course, I liked that Anna was not. It gave the story a nice balance between fact and fiction.

I am very interested in stories about famous actors, musicians, actresses, etc. told by someone who is just an average, ordinary person. I felt that Anna's voice gave the story the jump start that it needed. Zelda was a flirtatious flapper suffering from mental illness and I almost felt like she may have told the story too dramatically and would have only considered her side of things. It was nice to see Anna connect with Zelda, and the moments when the two women bonded were by far the best in the book.

For anyone that is interested in the Fitzgeralds, The Great Gatsby, or the Roaring 20's, I would definitely recommend that you try this novel for yourself. There were many Gatsby allusions that I found inspiring and well thought out. If you are looking for a completely factual account, then I would say that you are looking in the wrong place because some of this story does focus on Anna and of course she is a fictional character. I enjoyed going back in time and seeing what Zelda may have really been like. I often compare her in likeness to Marilyn Monroe, who is someone I admire very dearly.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at NAL Trade in exchange for my honest review***


  1. I love historical books and this one would be amazing to read. I'm interested in the fact that it's not told from the perspective of the Fitzgeralds but by someone else. Definitely adding this one to my list!

  2. i occasionally read historical and Fitzgeralds sounds very promising.

    great review
    Le' Grande Codex