Real Life Affairs | Fiction Reviews

Koslow, Sally. Another Side of Paradise. Harper. May 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780062696762. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062696786. F

Koslow’s (The Late, Lamented Molly Marx; Little Pink Slips) latest presents a fictionalized account of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s love affair with Sheilah Graham, who is confident, secure in her sexuality, and a more than a little ruthless when it comes to her career. ­Graham successfully distances herself from her orphanage-ridden childhood, lack of education, and failed first marriage by creating a dynamic persona as a celebrity columnist in 1930s Hollywood. As her career takes off, she meets Fitzgerald, who has been nearly forgotten by his reading public. The dichotomy between their ambitions and their hearts fuels their love story, which is all-consuming, full of contradictions, and overshadowed by Fitzgerald’s alcoholism and marriage to Zelda. Graham is always jockeying her contrary appetites, making her concern and support of Fitzgerald’s perpetual and always-around-the-corner literary comeback seem insincere. Even after she reveals her deepest secrets to him, it’s hard to sympathize with her choices, past and present, as the couple’s cycle of writing, fighting, and passion continues. VERDICT Fitzgerald fans might enjoy this fictional take on his life, but the rest of this “forgive me for loving a drunk” tale offers nothing new. Readers might be better off with Graham’s own memoir, Beloved Infidel.—Tina Panik, Avon Free P.L., CT

redstarMcNees, Kelly O’Connor. Undiscovered Country. Pegasus. Mar. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9781681776798. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681777276.

Lorena “Hick” Hickok is a tough-talking and hard-drinking New York City reporter from an abusive childhood, who suffers the pain and isolation that accompanies being a lesbian in 1903s America. Through her work she meets First Lady Eleanor ­Roosevelt, trapped in a marriage with a philandering husband but supremely competent and energetic and devoted to social causes. Their relationship provides McNees with wonderful historical details such as the sapphire ring Hick gave Roosevelt (whom she called Nora), and their plans for a shared home in the future; she seamlessly weaves real-life details from their actual correspondence over 30 years (although Hick destroyed some of the most intimate letters) into her fictional depictions. The combination of sympathetic yet flawed characters, rich atmospheric details about Depression-era America, and lyrical writing make this one a winner. VERDICT In the wake of Susan ­Wittig Albert’s recent Loving Eleanor and Amy Bloom’s forthcoming White Houses, McNees (The Lost Summer of Louisa May ­Alcott) has written an engaging, richly detailed historical romance about a once overlooked love story now receiving renewed attention. Highly recommended for readers of Theresa Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald or Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife.—Elizabeth Safford, ­Boxford Town Lib., MA

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