On my last trip to the library I picked up a copy of Call Me Zelda from the new titles shelf, read the back cover, and decided to give it a try. I read Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast (where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald make appearances) in university so I was somewhat familiar with the Fitzgeralds. I knew Fitzgerald’s work, but I didn’t know much about Zelda, his wife, other than she was a flapper back in the 1920s. Robuck’s novel, which read a lot like a biography and has a lot of true facts about the Fitzgeralds, taught me a lot more about Zelda: who she was, her relationship with Scott, her work, and her suffering.
The novel is narrated by a fictional character, Anna, a nurse at a psychiatric hospital who is assigned to care for Zelda Fitzgerald when she’s admitted as a patient in 1932 for schizophrenia. Anna soon builds a close relationship with Zelda and when Zelda is released from the hospital and moves back in with her husband and daughter, Scottie, Anna goes with them as Zelda’s nurse. Away from the hospital, Anna sees a new side to Zelda; she sees what her relationship with Scott does to her and how quickly Scottie has to grow up in order to survive in a house with a schizophrenic mother and alcoholic father.
I found how the novel presents facts about the Fitzgeralds through a narrative told by an outsider really interesting. This way, the reader is not forced to listen to either Scott’s or Zelda’s side of the story. Truth be told, Anna is more inclined toward making Zelda into the protagonist and Scott into the antagonist, but you can’t really blame her since she’s Zelda’s nurse and because of the course of events throughout the novel.
Call Me Zelda is definitely worth a read if you’re curious to learn more about the Fitzgeralds or even just to read the story of a woman suffering from a mental illness and lack of recognition for her work. Robuck does a great job at exploring who the genius behind all the novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald really was. Was Scott pulling a bit too much information from Zelda’s own writing in her diaries and her life? Find out for yourself. Grab a copy and happy reading! 🙂