First Published: 1932
This book was a thinly masked look at the life of Zelda Fitzgerald. She was married to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
She begins the story when she is a young girl who has just become aware of the world around her. She watches as her two older sisters fall in love with inappropriate men, then choose more appropriate men to marry.
Alabama Beggs is the youngest daughter of Millie and Austin Beggs. He is a Judge and a well respected man living somewhere in the Southern part of the USA. She watches the wooing and wedding games of her two older sisters with a lot of interest and imbibes lessons from them. When her own turn comes, she is courted by a lot of beaux, but gives her heart to David Knight and eventually marries him.
David is a soldier with some money but intends to make his living as a painter. He is quite successful in his new profession. Alabama follows him to New York where they are giddily in love with each other. They are also impractical youngsters who do not know how to hold on to their money. Their life is a series of drinking and partying orgies.
After a while David decides to go and settle down in France. Slowly, Alabama tries to chart her own life. She dedicates her life to ballet and tries to make it as a dancer. She tells her little daughter 'Never be a backseat driver'. It is obvious that she is fed up of basking in her husband's success and wants to make a name for herself.
The book is mired in heavy purple prose. It is hard to read the book without finding your head spinning from the weird writing. Here is an example.
That was because of the sense of security they felt in their father. He was a living fortress. Most people hew the battlements of life from compromise, erecting their impregnable keeps from judicious submissions, fabricating their philosophical drawbridges from emotional retractions and scalding marauders in the boiling oil of sour grapes.
Most of the book is filled with this kind of writing, which makes you feel quite cross-eyed. However, the story is not without its charms. It is extremely straightforward. Zelda does not hesitate to write down exactly as she felt.
She charts the journey of her life with honesty. She is a rebellious youngster, a clueless young woman and grows into a slightly more informed person later in her life. Her marriage also proceeds from their being mad for each other, to the detachment that comes later, and then staying together in harmony that comes even later. She is an indifferent mother to her daughter, affectionate in fits and starts.
She finds that she cannot depend on her husband the way she could depend on her father. He is not cut out from the same mold. She also realizes that she needs to have her own life, her own identity. Hence her advice to her daughter about not being a 'backseat driver in her life'. There are these candid flashes of wisdom in the book that make it worth wading through the unwieldy prose. I quote:
David's pictorial sense rose in wild stimulation on the barbaric juxtapositions of the Mediterranean morning.Zelda had largely a disturbed life (was that responsible for the prose?). She spent a lot of time in institutions and died in a fire there. She may have had better care in these times, when people understand a lot more about insanity, or mental disturbances. But so early on in the past century she did not stand a chance. Poor Zelda.