Saturday, 25 May 2013

Classics Club: Save Me the Waltz

Save Me the Waltz
Zelda Fitzgerald

'"You're as good as a book."
"I am a book. Pure fiction."'

In the last few months there has been quite the hoo-hah about The Great Gatsby and F.Scott Fitzgerald in general. For that, we have Baz Luhrmann to thank. We can also thank good old Baz for doing such a spectacular job with the film. I mean, that soundtrack?! But before I get carried away with the Fitzgerald of the F. Scott variety, I want to draw your attention to the other Fitzgerald, Zelda. Zelda has kind of slipped under the radar a bit and is in most circles only known for being Scott’s slightly mad wife but in fact she was a writer, painter and dancer. Recently, Zelda is having a bit of resurgence in popularity with fictional books like Z and Call Me Zelda jumping into the limelight. Her life is evidently a point of interest but her work is still largely forgotten. So here I am, taking one for the team, becoming a loving (if slightly flabbergasted) advocate of her work.

Save Me the Waltz, Zelda's first and only novel, is very loosely based on her life with F.Scott Fitzgerald. The first draft was considerably less loose and more a blatant portrait of a famously turbulent (potentially an understatement; he was an alcoholic and she suffered from Bipolar disorder) marriage. It follows the courtship and marriage of Alabama Beggs and David Knight from their life in America, their move to Paris and finally, Alabama's solo move to Naples. A few things happen along the way but really there is very little in the way of plot. The novel is best described as a snapshot of the lives of Alabama and David, but it is a blurry, frustrated and melancholy snapshot. Even without a traditional plot it does keep you engaged. I for one was just interested to see how their relationship would pan out (basically, I'm just nosy) - which one would cheat first/ give in to addiction first/ have the most success. It's the sort of relationship that you find ever so intriguing but would hate to be in.

Zelda’s writing is unbelievably energetic. Words jump off the page and drag you right into the world of 1920's Paris and right into their relationship. You feel Alabama’s determination to dance and her pain as she goes through the process of learning (the blisters sound positively agonising). The language is flowery and dense which usually makes me put aside a book in disgust but I actually quite like it here. I think to read Save Me the Waltz and enjoy it, it is necessary to just go with it. Be pulled along by it. Be completely drawn into the destructive relationship of the Knight(Fitzgerald)'s. Be convinced that you want to be a dancer too just because of the way she talks about it. Be in the 1920's. Be in America, Paris and Naples. Be IN the novel. Yes, it will suck you in, shake you about a bit and then spit you out with a slightly different (more energetic, definitely) take on the world.

I will freely put my hands up and admit that Zelda lost me occasionally but that doesn’t change how I feel about the book at a whole. I rather enjoyed the whirlwind trip to America, Paris and Naples. The best bit? Having a conversation with ‘Zelda’ over twitter. Yes, you heard me. There is someone on twitter (@FirstFlapper) masquerading as Zelda Fitzgerald. Shortly after announcing to the world of twitter that I had finished Save Me the Waltz I received this reply ‘Tell me you loved it? My writing style is unique, vivacious, sensual…kinda like me’. So starts a love affair with Zelda Fitzgerald.

'"Is it so hard to love me?"
"Do you think you are easy, my illusive possession?"'

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  1. I haven't read this and it makes me feel all sorts of reader shame. Ack! Onto the wish list it goes...

    1. I didn't feel like I could read any of the recent historical fiction about Zelda without having first read this. I hate reader shame! I hope you enjoy it whenever you get around to it.

  2. I so want to read this! It sounds a lot like Tender is the Night, by her husband?

    1. Yes! Tender is the Night and Save Me the Waltz are like a his and hers version of events. I'm looking forward to reading his side of the story now.


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