Saturday, January 31, 2015

{Review} WEST OF SUNSET by Stewart O'Nan

ISBN #: 978-0670785957
Page Count: 304
Copyright: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Viking Adult

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, uncertain man whose literary success was long over. In poor health, with his wife consigned to a mental asylum and his finances in ruins, he struggled to make a new start as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By December 1940, he would be dead of a heart  attack.

Those last three years of Fitzgerald’s life, often obscured by the legend of his earlier Jazz Age glamour, are the focus of Stewart O’Nan’s gorgeously and gracefully written novel. With flashbacks to key moments from Fitzgerald’s past, the story follows him as he arrives on the MGM lot, falls in love with brassy gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, begins work on The Last Tycoon, and tries to maintain a semblance of family life with the absent Zelda and daughter, Scottie.

Lupe's Review:

This was brilliant. A very well done portrait of a man whose decline into oblivion, both social and physically, is portrayed as one of grace, but not always dignity.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, by the late 1930's, is no longer the Hollywood big act he used to be. After Gatsby, for which, he believes, is all he will ever be known for, he begins a steady decline into alcohol and debt. His wife, Zelda, holed up in a mental institution and his daughter, Scottie, about to begin college, F. Scott is falling apart. He doesn't have enough money (or enough booze) for him to get by. He borrows against writings he hasn't even thought of yet, with hopes that they will get picked up and be successful. He begins a tumultuous affair with a gossip columnist, Sheliah Graham, and tries, unsuccessfully to quit drinking and smoking to be healthy. All of the stress takes its toll on him, and F. Scott Fitzgerald dies of a heart attack.

This, we all know. What we don't know are all the behind the scenes extras, like how cut throat the lots were between all the writers who were there, and even all the actors. Back then, as now, actors most definitely called the shots, and all the bigs are here, from Joan Crawford, to Clark Gable and even Shirley Temple. Amidst all this, you have F. Scott, struggling to find a place and make his name mean something again, all while maintaining an affair (Sheliah) and his mental ill wife (Zelda) and college bound daughter (Scottie).

It is within all this madness that I came to admire Fitzgerald. Even though he was clearly falling apart at the seams, he always made sure that Zelda and Scottie never knew. His love for Zelda was palpable in every scene they shared, every letter they wrote to each other, as was his love for Scottie. It surpassed even his love for Sheliah, which I believe was only ever infatuation, since Sheliah was just a fill in for his lonliness and sorrow of the decline of Zelda's health.

I have only in the last year read The Great Gatsby and was hooked onto Fitzgerald's writing. He flows with a rhythm that just oozed 1920's flair and his prose is fantastic. I never knew much about his background, but this novel definitely made me a forever admirer of his work.

(This was not my original review. Unfortunately, my comp crashed before it saved...and I didn't copy it yet. So this one is a much watered down and not as lengthy version.)

*A physical copy of the novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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