Many thanks to Scribner Publishing and NetGalley for the approval of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: mental illness, alcoholism.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
What’s more romantic than a love story? A dramatic, tumultuous, and relatively short love story told through the handwritten letters of the 1920s-1930s iconic couple, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
In this compilation, edited by Jackson Bryer and Cathy Barks, the dynamic relationship between Scott and Zelda is explored through a collection of their letters, notes, and telegrams to each other over the course of their relationship.
Starting from when they began dating in 1918, the young couple were clearly in love, and their letters are full of hope and wistful longing for reaching their dreams. In the collection, due to the loss of his letters, Scott is mostly communicating through telegrams, but in the mostly all-caps statements, you can tell he is driven as a writer and determined to woo Miss Zelda Sayre. She in return is equally devoted and eager for their marriage, though she does mention her flirtations and dates with other men while Scott is in New York. This is a hint of their underlying jealousies of each other. As time goes on, the success of This Side of Paradise in 1920 spurs the couples nuptials, as well as their launch into the party society in New York City.
Cue all the roaring 1920’s imagery, which Scott brought to his novels The Beautiful and the Damned and The Great Gatsby. However, these parties weren’t his only inspiration- Scott often used lines and themes from his letters to Zelda for his work. However, this is also where boundaries and lines were being crossed, and we start to see problems develop in their relationship. Scott and Zelda struggled financially from the 1920’s to the mid-1930s, trying to keep up with their grand lifestyle, and eventually moving to Europe where the dollar was much stronger in the exchange rate. This is also where Scott’s alcoholism becomes evident, and where Zelda’s mental state started to wain. The letters from this period show the fissures in the relationship, even though the couple still remain desperately determined to support and love each other.
From there, the letters display the dissolution of this couple- torn apart more by their illnesses than anything else. Through it all, their letters remained a constant communication of honesty, love, and resolution. Also, coming from two writers, their wonderfully periodic, clever, charming, descriptive, and animated. Their letters are windows to those outside their relationship, and to have them arranged and annotated as the editors did offers the reader a wonderful insight and understanding that would have been missed based on the less intimate, public persona of this couple.
I’ve truly enjoyed Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda, and will certainly be recommending it to my historical memoir fans.
Expected Publication Date: July 23, 2019
TL/DR: Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald is a collection of letters from writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, throughout the course of their relationship.
Read it? Yes! It’s format leads to a quick pace as well, so it can definitely be squeezed into reading queues.
Recommend it? Yes, especially to historical memoir fans, or fans of either Fitzgerald’s work, and also to those looking for a good love story.
Buy it? YES! I hope to get a copy to review in tandem with when I read Fitzgerald during classics month!
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