Spanning a time frame of just over 16 years Erika Robuck in her second novel, Call Me Zelda, creates a fascinating and multilevel narrative of one of American Literature’s most famous couples – F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Told through the voice of nurse Anna Howard Brennan, whose care of and friendship with Zelda spans sixteen years, it is a story of love and hate, art – both written and visual and business, of the unresolved past and the troubled present; mental illness and emotional resilience and terrible loss and tremendous gain.
It is also a story of two women – Fitzgerald and Anna, whose husband Ben is MIA after the First World War and whose daughter Katie, died in early childhood and how in helping the one, the other begins to find life again. Woven into the story line are a cast of supporting characters, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who truly fill out the story.
Call Me Zelda blends historical fiction with elements of a supernatural thriller which adds to the book. It is interesting that the main setting of the novel takes place in Baltimore and with what I believe is a nod to Edgar Allen Poe, Robuck uses elements that reflects Poe such as fear and terror when describing Anna’s visit to a former Fitzgerald home that has fallen into disuse:
“When I reached the top of the stairs I saw it. A shadow slipped into the room down the hall. Everything in my body said to run, but instead I strode toward it and opened the door. I gasped when I saw what was inside.
A grand dollhouse nearly filled the room… I knew that Zelda had made it for Scottie… I photographed the dollhouse from every angle, overcome by the sheer enormity of Zelda’s expression of love for her daughter… But the bad thing in the house was back…I started walking swiftly from the room but felt the thing at my back and broke into a run down the stairs, through the hallway, through the kitchen, and out the back door of the house.”
Written with more of an edge than Hemingway’s Girl and more psychological in tone than her previous work; filled with symbolism that reflected Zelda’s troubled mind, the Fitzgerald’s troubled relationship, Anna’s troubled and painful past, and the trouble times of the 1930’s; Call Me Zelda is good fiction. I liked the book for its historical detail, good characterization, and rich narrative.
I rate Call Me Zelda a ‘very good’ read.
Note: I received an uncorrected proof of this book from Amazon Vine in exchange for review. I was not required to write a positive review.