Z Discussion questions

1. Many accounts of both Scott and Zelda contend that Zelda wouldn’t marry Scott unless he was well off—a view they themselves encouraged in the early years of their marriage. How does this play into the flapper image Zelda embodied in the ‘20s? Overall, was it harmful or beneficial to her?

2. How much of Scott’s success is owed to Zelda’s manufactured breakup with him in 1919?

3. The first time Zelda thinks she may be pregnant she refuses to pursue an abortion. Why, then, does she choose differently later on?

4. Why does Zelda have so little regard for her parents’ views and the standards by which she was raised?

5. Is Scott’s alcohol abuse a cause or a result of the life he and Zelda led and the troubles they experienced?

6. How legitimate was it for Scott and his agent, Harold Ober, to sell Zelda’s short stories under a joint by-line?

7. Which of Zelda’s talents do you feel was her truest calling?

8. How do you feel about Scott’s insistence on hiring strict nannies to care for Scottie? What benefit, or harm, may have come from this?

9. Modern psychiatrists have said that Zelda was probably troubled not with schizophrenia in its current definition but with bipolar disorder, which is characterized by dramatic mood swings and the behaviors that sometimes result. Where do you see evidence of Zelda’s illness in the years before her breakdown in early 1930? How much, if any, of her vibrant personality might be tied to the disorder?

10. What does it say about Scott that he was so highly involved in Zelda’s care during her episodes of hospitalization?

11. Why does Zelda tolerate Scott’s infatuation with actress Lois Moran and, later, columnist Sheilah Graham?

12. When Zelda says Ernest Hemingway is to blame for the disaster she and Scott made of their lives, what exactly does she mean? What might have been different for them if Hemingway hadn’t been Scott’s close friend?

13. Ernest Hemingway’s sexuality has been the subject of scrutiny by literary scholars and curious readers alike. In what ways was Zelda’s fear about the nature of Scott’s friendship with Hemingway justified?

14. Owing greatly to Ernest Hemingway’s account of her in A Moveable Feast (1964), Zelda has been seen as “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s crazy wife.” Why do you think Hemingway wrote so spitefully about her and so critically about Scott so many years after both their deaths?

15. Scott made almost all his money writing for the popular magazines (“the slicks”) and from the movie industry—and making money was essential for the lifestyle he wanted to lead. Why, then, was he forever struggling to impress the critics with more serious work?

16. Alcohol abuse and infidelity were seen as common and acceptable during the Jazz Age and among the expatriates especially. How much have views changed since then?

17. How do Sara and Gerald Murphy influence Zelda? What about Zelda’s friend Sara Haardt Mencken?

18. Despite her evolving interests and ambitions, Zelda never saw herself as a feminist. How might that view have affected her choices, both as a young woman and then later, when she aspired to dance professionally?

19.  In what ways would the Fitzgeralds’ public and private lives have been different if they’d lived in the 1960s? 1980s? Today?

20. The Great Gatsby is often said to have been modeled on the Fitzgeralds’ time in Great Neck (Long Island), New York, with Gatsby’s love for Daisy inspired by Zelda’s affair with Edouard Jozan. Where in Z do you see evidence of this?

21. Scott turns Zelda’s affair with Jozan into another Fitzgerald tale. What does this say about him? What does it say about Zelda that she allows it?

22. Though Zelda spends most of her adult life away from her family and the South, she doesn’t escape their influences. Where do you see this most vividly?

7 thoughts on “Z Discussion questions

  1. Rosalyn Martty

    Love, love, loved this book..didn’t want to finish it, it was so good! I had a good friend in college, Sayre Noble..a grand-niece of Zelda’s. You might be interested in bringing up her obituary..put her name in the search engine..Sayre was a gorgeous, sexy girl, and wild. She slipped out at night after curfew in the sorority house. She lived in Montgomery all her life, and was in charge of the Fitzgerald museum.. However, she also lived a tragic life, three of her sons died, one with a staph infection as as result of pneumonia, another an accident, and another was shot, ..by his wife, as well as her husband killed in an airplane crash.
    I have been a follower of Zelda and Scott for years..when in Washington DC, I lived in the Flour Mill, and there I met Jeff Mayfield, the nephew of Sara Mayfield who wrote “Exiles in Paradise”..even went to his wedding..He was the beneficiary of all her works and estate.
    I went to the house, was it on #3 Pleasant Street, where Sayre lived for a sorority rush event, and Sayre and I were on a float together that I designed…a bar scene, and Sayre had on this sexy satin dress..she had a great figure, and all the men were gaga for her..so, “the apple didn’t fall far from the tree”.. So, I had a lot of connections to the Zelda story, and you were just sublime..it was if you were Zelda. I can’t tell you how much this book enriched my life! You are such a gifted writer! I also listened to this book on CDS..and the reader was excellent..I plan to read the book again, and listen to the CDs again..you are that good!
    I am a writer myself, was editor of Go Magazine for Washington DC, and other articles. I wish the best for you..any plans to come to New Orleans?
    Rosalyn H. Martty
    333 State Street
    New Orleans, La 70118

  2. Anonymous

    I’m curious to know if Theresa Anne Fowler is a relative of the Fowlers mentioned in Z.

  3. Mary Ann Burdett

    Hey, I’m not in a book club but was looking for some way to contact the author and not seeing any decided to comment on this. Just finished the book and absolutely loved it! Hope you are writing another book soon!

    I think I am into creative writers’ books lately as also just finished The Art Forger by BA Shapiro who teaches creative writing at Northeastern in Boston.

  4. Sue Kenny

    I am doing my family tree.
    William Fowler b 1773 Brewhan Somerset. & Anne Wicks Holton Somerset marriage 17.6.1793. Their children Eliza b 1793, John 20.3.1799, William b 1801, Henry Fowler & Uriah b 1831.
    My line John 20.3.1799 Bresham Somerset married 1820 Mary Bray b 3.11.1799. Their children Ann b 11.4.1821, Richard 1.11.1823, Emma 26.11.1825, John b 7.11.1826, Emmanuel b 7.1.1831, Job b 29.7.1835. Arrived on Ship “Mary” in Australia 1839.
    My line Ann b 11.4.1821 married 21.8.1841 Benjamin Benyon – his father Edward Benyon ( Convict). Thier children Edward b 7.8.1842, Sarah b 31.3.1844, Emma Rosa b 1845, Anne Jane b 1848

    Sue K

  5. thereseannefowler Post author

    Thank you all for your comments.

    To Rosalyn: what a wonderful series of connections you’ve had with Zelda! Thank you for taking the time to share this.

    To “Anonymous”: no, no connection to Ludlow or his kin.

  6. ME

    Ms. Fowler,

    I am a huge fan. I just had the pleasure of rereading your book, Z. I greatly enjoyed it the first time around, and this time- really enjoyed the nuances. I look forward to reading your new book in October. It seems like this is an old message board, but if you still read this…. I would love to know to what extent you based the novel on fact/research of Zelda’s life and to what extent it was fiction. That’s probably not an easy question to answer, but I can’t stop wondering: to what extent did you imagine the locations and events within the story? For example, when you mention that Zelda and Scott attended a party or play or went to a restaurant on a certain evening, was that based on diaries or tabloid evidence that they were there or was it invented? Just wondering!

  7. Cathaleen Sherlock

    I am just writing to tell you that your are definitely my new favorite author. I just read your new book A Well-Behave Woman and am at the end of Z. You are such a great writer and I feel I am right there with you. I live in Charlotte, NC and would love to know if you have any signings coming up here. We have a small book store called Park Road Books and they do an awful lot of book signing there. Please write more – Cathaleen

Comments are closed.