The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna NorthI sense The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is going to be one of those books that we will be seeing a lot of on all the Summer Reads lists. But as we have all learned, just because a book makes the must-read lists, doesn’t mean you should read it. And here I am to help you decide if you should, in fact, read The Life and Death of Sophie StarkContinue reading

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

crooked-letterSeveral people have recommended Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin to me over the years. Mindy from Minty Fresh Mysteries even gave me a copy. But it wasn’t until Amy at Read A Latte said it was worth reading if you are a fan of Serial, that i dove in. As an aside, if you’re not listening to Serial already, download the podcast today. Continue reading

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

the-weird-sistersThe Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown was my first official read for Free Range Reading. It has been sitting on my shelf for years and finally the mood struck me to read it. I wanted something that was light, a little like watching a movie and nothing that would be mentally taxing at all. The Weird Sisters fit the bill. Continue reading

Naomi Wood at the Edinburgh Book Festival

edbookfestI saw Naomi Wood at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Saturday, so i’m writing this quite a few days after the fact. She was on a panel with David Park (The Poets’ Wives) talking about biographical fiction. Both have recently written novels with predominant literary figures at the heart of them. For the most part I will be sticking to Woods comments, as I have not read David Park’s book. Continue reading

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

lived-in-castleYep, I digging way into the backlist for this one – 1965. I will admit that before I started blogging I don’t think I’d ever heard of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Then last year, it seemed that everyone was talking about it. It’s by Shirley Jackson, who you probably think you’ve never heard of, but you have. She wrote The Lottery, a short story you undoubtedly read in high school or college and it blew your mind. Continue reading

The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart

The-visionist-ukI walked in to the library earlier this week and The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart leaped out at me, calling my name. I remember a few months back this was making the rounds on some of my favorite blogs and getting good reviews. It’s set in the Shaker community and deals with questions of belief. If that’s not up my alley, then I don’t know what is. So it seemed fated that I read it. Continue reading

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

zThe second I saw Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler listed on NetGalley I knew I had to read it. I have been a fan of the Fitzgeralds since I read The Great Gatsby in high school. I am enamored by the legend that surrounds them and the other great writers of that age: Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Parker, Max Perkins. Z follows in the tradition of Hemingway’s A Movable Feast, That Summer in Paris by Morely Callaghan and Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill – a fictionalized telling of the time. The story that is told is one we know well, the difference this time, however, is that Zelda is the center of attention rather than a mere spectator.

Fowler has chosen a formidable character in Zelda. She has often been regarded as a Jazz age playgirl whose life, in the end, goes helter skelter. That rendition of her life is far too simple and Fowler does a good job at filling in the gaps. Most importantly, Fowler gives Zelda’s motivation for many of the antics that she is know for. The interplay between Zelda and Scott shows just how troubled Scott was and how his cruelty pushed Zelda over the edge.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of Z is the way in which Fowler depicts Zelda’s fraught relationship with Hemingway. The animosity between the two of them has often been commented upon, but never explored. I don’t know how much of Fowler’s rendering is grounded in fact but she places a plausible scenario before us to consider.

Who would like this book? Overall, I recommend this book very highly, particularly if you are a fan of the Fitzgeralds and the Lost Generation. It is well, written, well told and well researched. Yes, it is a story you’ve heard before, but the perspective is considerably different this time around. I imagine Z will become a book club favorite in much the same way as Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife and Tanis Rideout’s Above All Things have. There seems to be a certain trend in literature right now to retell the stories of the wives of famous men. This I find slightly troubling, as though these women are only of note because of who they are married to. I feel that Z escapes this trend to a certain extent as Zelda is continually striving to find definition for herself outside of the role of wife. In fact, by the end of the novel being referred to as Scott’s wife is almost enough to send her back to a mental institution.