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Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Nancy Milford’s Zelda: A Biography, a study of the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, is obviously intended to be a definitive work. As Milford notes, it is the result of six years of research and writing. In telling her subject’s story, Milford frequently quotes interviews and correspondence with people close to Zelda and her husband, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as the diaries and letters to which she was given access. As a result, the characters seem to be telling their story in their own words, while the biographer explains, interprets, and supplies additional factual material.

Zelda is organized chronologically, with each of four parts representing a distinct phase of Fitzgerald’s life. The first part, “Southern Girl,” takes the subject from her birth to her marriage. Fitzgerald was the sixth and last child of middle-aged parents, Minnie Machen Sayre and Anthony D. Sayre, a judge in Montgomery, Alabama. Although they were financially hard-pressed, her parents were socially prominent, and she was reared to be a Southern belle. Irrepressible but charming, Zelda was loved and indulged by everyone around her. When she entered school, it soon became clear that what she wanted more than anything else was continual excitement. During her high-school days, as the belle of Montgomery, she very nearly attained her goal. All that was missing was a handsome, romantic husband. Then, in the charming, good-looking, and talented F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda found her perfect man. At twenty, she married him and set out to conquer New York.

The second section of the book, “The Twenties,” describes the extravagant life which Scott and Zelda led during the first decade of their marriage, a life made up of pranks, parties, overindulgence, and outrageous behavior. In New York City, on the French Riviera, in Hollywood, in Italy—wherever they went, Scott and Zelda were a prince and princess, gloriously representing the carefree spirit of a new era.

Yet, just as the Roaring Twenties preceded the Great Depression, so the glittering lives of...

(The entire section is 519 words.)