Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Call Me Zelda

Summary: Everything in the ward seemed different now, and I no longer felt its calming presence. The Fitzgeralds stirred something in me that had been dormant for a long time, and I was not prepared to face it....
From New York to Paris, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald reigned as king and queen of the Jazz Age, seeming to float on champagne bubbles above the mundane cares of the world. But to those who truly knew them, the endless parties were only a distraction from their inner turmoil, and from a love that united them with a scorching intensity.
When Zelda is committed to a Baltimore psychiatric clinic in 1932, vacillating between lucidity and madness in her struggle to forge an identity separate from her husband, the famous writer, she finds a sympathetic friend in her nurse, Anna Howard. Held captive by her own tragic past, Anna is increasingly drawn into the Fitzgeralds’ tumultuous relationship. As she becomes privy to Zelda’s most intimate confessions, written in a secret memoir meant only for her, Anna begins to wonder which Fitzgerald is the true genius. But in taking ever greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she intended.... -- New American Library

With the release of The Great Gatsby movie a few months back, there seems to be books about Zelda Fitzgerald everywhere! One that was recommended to me by quite a few people is called CALL ME ZELDA by Erika Robuck. Since I have read and enjoyed a few of Ms. Robuck's books, I figured it was worth a shot.

And indeed it was! I really enjoyed CALL ME ZELDA and thought it provided a unique perspective on Zelda Fitzgerald's life. CALL ME ZELDA is actually written in the voice of Anna Howard, a nurse and eventual friend of Zelda's, who had the opportunity to get an insider's perspective into the Fitzgeralds' tempestuous lives. As Anna becomes more and more involved in Zelda's live, she finds that it's at a risk to her own well-being.

One thing I really appreciated about CALL ME ZELDA is that the narrator was not Zelda. First of all, Zelda seemed to be quite mad at times, and I don't think that she would make for the most reliable of narrators. (I don't know if I could handle yet another unreliable narrator this month!) As Ms. Robuck did in HEMINGWAY'S GIRL, she allowed a fictional character to reveal the truths behind the famous person's life. I liked that she was able to fully develop Anna's character and make her story interesting to the reader,  while at the same time, shedding light on Zelda's life.

Anna was truly such a wonderful character. I liked her as a person, and I really respected her loyalty and devotion to Zelda. However, I also appreciated her story on its own merit. Anna had experienced her own fair share of pain, and my heart went out to her. I was especially impressed by how the author was able to effectively weave together Zelda's and Anna's tragic stories and show how both women benefited as a result of their relationship.

And finally, I really enjoyed was the setting. Maybe it's because I was still picturing scenes from The Great Gatsby, but I loved how well Ms. Robuck brought this time period to life. I also appreciated how she incorporated the facts of the Fitzgeralds' lives into this fictional narrative. I have a feeling that not only did the author conduct a tremendous amount of research on the Fitzgeralds, but she also researched the heck out of the 1920s and the 1930s.

CALL ME ZELDA would make an excellent discussion book for book clubs. There is a reading guide included with the trade paperback version of the novel; however, I wasn't able to find an on-line link. Some of the themes you might want to explore include love, mental illness, family dynamics, marriage, trust, loss, grief, and friendship.

Ms. Robuck just seems to get better and better with each novel. I highly recommend CALL ME ZELDA for fans of historical fiction as well as women's fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Beth F said...

I'm so embarrassed that I haven't gotten to this yet. I know I'd love it. But I just can't make time for everything.

bermudaonion said...

I liked this book but don't don't think I liked it quite as much as you did. I didn't really understand Anna's loyalty to Zelda.

Sandy Nawrot said...

All these Zelda books have made me think that I need to know her story. Beyond knowing that she was crazy that is. I am always in awe of how writers can accurately describe this era. It almost defies description.

Beth Hoffman said...

I loved this book and was drawn into Zelda and Anna's story immediately. Erika Robuck's writing is excellent and I admire how she created the atmosphere and strange dynamics surrounding the Fitzgeralds.