Fictional Biographies | January 2013

Fowler, Therese Anne. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. St. Martin’s. Mar. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781250028655. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250028648. F

Fowler’s (Exposure) latest novel is a biographical sketch of Zelda Fitzgerald, the beautiful but troubled wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Born Zelda Sayre in Alabama, she is a Southern belle whose energy and indulgences prompt her to follow Fitzgerald north to New York City and later to Paris. Tumultuous love, literary jealousies, alcoholism, and masculine rivalries all play key roles in the drama of American literature’s “It” couple. The Fitzgeralds mingle with Jazz Age greats including Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, and Pablo Picasso. Zelda’s continuous attempts to escape the shadow of her famous husband and assert her own artistic identity often end in bitter arguments and ultimately lead to her insanity. Though there are many biographies of the Fitzgeralds, Fowler’s well-researched fictional account provides a tender, intimate exploration of a complicated and captivating woman. VERDICT This will appeal to readers of American and literary history, women’s studies, or poignant romances. While it doesn’t offer anything new to the Fitzgerald story, Fowler’s detailed prose will certainly spark fresh interest in the most famous couple of the Roaring Twenties. [See Prepub Alert, 9/10/12; interested readers might also want to try Zelda’s only (and autobiographical) novel, Save Me the Waltz —Ed.] —Shannon Marie Robinson, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH

Keane, Mary Beth. Fever. Scribner. Mar. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781451693416. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451693430. F

In the early 20th century in bustling and grimy New York City, Mary Mallon (1869–1938) became a medical first when she was identified as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. Unknowingly, the house cook was passing the disease to families around the city. Eventually, typhoid outbreaks were traced to Mary, and she was placed in isolation. She was released three years later on the condition she would never cook again, but that promise proved hard for her to keep. Keane’s second novel (after The Walking People ) tells the tragic tale of “Typhoid Mary” and the dangerous decisions she made while following her passion for cooking. The award-winning writer mixes literary imagination with historical fact to humanize the notorious Mary. Readers will question Mary’s final choices but scrutinize the injustices committed against her and sympathize when she suffers. VERDICT Even for those who know the outcome, fiction fans will eagerly anticipate each new page where disease lurks behind every compassionate corner. Keane has replaced the “Typhoid Mary” cliché with a memorable and emotional human story. [Four-city author tour.] —Andrea Brooks, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib.., Highland Heights

Library Journal Reviews starred review Rideout, Tanis. Above All Things. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. Feb. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780399160585. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101609200. F

She’s a seductress and a tease, begging to be conquered. She is Mount Everest and the man in her thrall, George Mallory, is the subject of this knockout first novel from a Canadian poet. The author has exhilaratingly imagined the British climber’s third and final attempt to reach the mountain’s summit in 1924 through extensive research and attention to detail, creating an atmosphere as authentic as in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Access to years of letters exchanged between Mallory and his wife, Ruth, provide impetus for the equally compelling and only too familiar love story of a strong woman drawn to a charismatic adventurer torn between home and family and the lure of the next challenge. Why do they do it? National pride? Individual glory? Or is it some more nebulous combination of ego, guilt, and rebellion, as the author speculates? VERDICT Book group alert! Rideout has written a superb addition to the fictional biography genre popularized by novels like Loving Frank and The Paris Wife . Buy it. Recommend it. Your patrons will thank you. [See Prepub Alert 8/9/12; see also Neal Wyatt’s “Tanis Rideout’s “Above All Things” Read- and Watch-Alikes | Readers’ Advisory Crossroads] —Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL