Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Review: Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck

Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 7, 2013
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "From the author of Hemingway’s Girl comes a richly imagined tale of Zelda Fitzgerald’s love, longing, and struggle against ever-threatening insanity. From New York to Paris, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald reigned as king and queen of the Jazz Age, but those who really knew them saw their inner turmoil. Committed to a Baltimore psychiatric hospital in 1932, Zelda vacillates between lucidity and madness as she fights to forge an identity independent of her famous husband. She discovers a sympathetic ear in her nurse Anna Howard, who finds herself drawn into the Fitzgerald’s tumultuous lives and wonders which of them is the true genius. But in taking greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she ever intended. In this thoroughly researched, deeply moving novel, Erika Robuck explores the boundaries of female friendship, the complexity of marital devotion, and the sources of both art and madness."
Anna Howard is a dedicated nurse at a psychiatric clinic in Baltimore, Maryland.  She is a complex character that deals with her own "demons" on a daily basis.  Her world is changed forever when she becomes a nurse to none other than Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of the famous author, F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Zelda is such a talented woman and talented in many areas, but ultimately, she suffers from the mental illness, schizophrenia   As time goes by, Zelda befriends Anna and finds herself opening up to her to the point where she pretty much becomes her private nurse and go-to expert on all things Zelda.   Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck is an interesting glimpse into the world of Zelda Fitzgerald, her turbulent relationship with her husband as well as the friendship with her fictional nurse, Anna Howard.  

What I liked the most about Call Me Zelda is the fact that Zelda isn't our narrator. (And thank God for that....can you say unreliable narrator?) Thankfully, Anna is our storyteller as everything is through her eyes.  She had an upsetting past and found herself healing through her relationship with Zelda and of course, Zelda found herself doing much better when Anna was around.  However, my issue is the fact that I could never really pinpoint why Anna was initially "obsessed" with Zelda.  I mean she even let her family take a backseat, because of her dedication to Zelda.

Also, I like that Anna encouraged Zelda to pursue her interests in Call Me Zelda, specifically regarding using her writing as an outlet, which, of course, upset her husband.  I knew that Zelda was interested in writing, but being the Hemingway fan that I am, I went into this story with a sort of bias regarding Zelda.  As it turns out, I really felt for Zelda despite my prejudices.  Her marriage is sort of a co-dependent nightmare. F. Scott Fitzgerald is overbearing, narcissistic, manipulative and all around horrible guy, at least in the book.  Ugh.  I mean here is Zelda, trying to get healthy, and he is, essentially, putting stress on her and causing discord.  Another thing that irked me regarding F. Scott Fitzgerald was the fact that he took Zelda's diaries and pretty much got some of his ideas (Tender is the Night) from her!  Obviously, I wasn't a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald in Call Me Zelda.

What was so impressive about Zelda is the fact that she is so very multi-talented in Call Me Zelda.  She was an accomplished ballerina late in life, an artist, and a writer. Wow!  No wonder Fitzgerald (and possibly Hemingway) were intimidated.  Zelda, although she suffered from mental illness, really was an amazing person and Robuck does a fantastic job portraying the ups and downs of the Fitzgeralds as well as a captivating fictional friendship with nurse, Anna Howard.

Although I didn't love Call Me Zelda as much as Hemingway's Girl, I still thought it was entertaining and it inspired me to learn more about the Jazz Age icon that is Zelda Fitzgerald.


  1. He steals ideas from her journal? Not cool F. Scott Fitzgerald, not cool! She sounds like a very intriguing woman, someone whom a whole book but scratches the surface of. Glad that even though you didn't like this one as much as Hemingway's Girl you still were a fan of it overall:)

    1. Yes! I am totally inspired to read more about her- she sure is a lot of fun! Thanks for visiting, Jenny!

  2. I find the Fitzgeralds so fascinating. I've always been a huge fan of the Great Gatsby, though, so I don't know if I'd enjoy something that shows F. Scott in such a dismal light. I may have to pick it up sometime (or maybe Hemingway's Girl instead?). Great review!

    1. I always knew that Fitzgerald was a bit boozy and narcissistic, so I wasn't too surprised by his portrayal, but if you are a fan of Hemingway, I would definitely check out Hemingway's Girl. I loved it! Thanks for visiting, Natalie!

  3. I learned about her from watching Midnight in Paris. Her life sounds so fascinating and the Fitzgeralds are just so intriguing. Great review!


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