Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Staff Review: Z by Therese Anne Fowler & A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert

Z: an novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler gives a Lost Generation view from Zelda’s eyes rather than from her more famous spouse, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert relates the story of Rose Wilder Lane, who should have shared credit for the authorship of the Little House series along with her better known mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The books have a number of similarities. Both are fictionalized accounts of actual people facing similar hardships and share the same basic time-frame from the 1920s through the 1940s. Both are well reviewed, irresistible reads with a common underlying theme: Zelda never escapes Scott’s shadow, just as Rose Wilder Lane is overshadowed by her mother, full well knowing the Little House books would not have been successful but for her editing.  

Alabama belle Zelda Sayre, daughter of a well-to-do judge, meets and marries Lt. Scott Fitzgerald post World War I. Zelda is a free spirit, ready to escape the strictures of Southern womanhood. The couple moves from Alabama to New York to Paris to Italy, encountering Dorothy Parker, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and many more luminaries of the era.  Despite Scott’s success as an author and the couple’s glittering social life, the Fitzgeralds live on a financial roller coaster. Zelda serves as a sounding board for Scott’s writing and finds some success on her own, but some of her articles are sold under Scott’s name because he could command a better price.

Rose Wilder Lane has a Midwest upbringing in South Dakota and Missouri. Her parents are Almanzo Wilder, the central character in Farmer Boy, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. The family suffers the loss of an infant son, Almanzo’s ill health and financial hardships. Rose escapes by becoming a telegraph operator than an author of increasing repute. The stock market crash forces Rose back to Missouri, and she begins helping her mother market her pioneer stories to provide some income to support her parents.

These two biographical fiction books have led me to consider how fact and fiction can come together to create great reads. My curiosity will point me towards Zelda’s letters and Rose’s work under her own name. The best reads to me are ones that make me want to read more.

 - Michelle, Adult Services

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