Review of Kendall Taylor’s The Great Gatsby: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal that Shaped an American Classic

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Taylor’s account of the train wreck of the Fitzgerald marriage of two clearly incompatible people was hard to read, not because of Taylor’s writing but due to the extensive disastrous consequences visited on others. Scott and Zelda consumed and destroyed so many lives.

Notwithstanding other reviewers’ comments that The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal that Shaped an American Classic is misleading in emphasizing the affair in its title, Taylor’s account is about the affair of Zelda Fitzgerald with Edouard Jozan and all of its ramifications, ramifications that destroyed, at least partially, the lives of Scott and Zelda because Scott could not forgive while Zelda refused to forget Edouard. On the other hand, one might see it as Zelda could not forgive — for Scott’s treatment of her afterwards and Edouard for deserting her — and Scott could not forget because the affair was replicated in Scott’s writing from then on as well as having affairs in retribution.

Perhaps the criticism in other reviews is because Taylor does not focus on the more tawdry sensational aspects of the affair. Taylor in my view is to be commended on this because a tell-all book is easy to write and the last thing the Fitzgerald or Jozan generations need.

The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal that Shaped an American Classic is also a notable contribution to literature in this analysis of Scott’s (and to a lesser extent, Zelda’s) works through providing context to how the characters originated in Scott’s mind and how the characters continued to develop during the course of the novel.

The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal that Shaped an American Classic is also important for Taylor’s through research of early developments in the field of psychiatry and the treatment of mental illness. It was not a pretty history, but a cruel one and though Taylor does not expressly link this sordid history with the current less-restrictive residential community mode of therapy and treatment of mental illness, Taylor’s account does shed light on why the trend is to treat those who can be in the community rather than institutionalizing them. Her account also sheds light on why patient’s and women’s rights have developed as they have.

In sum, The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal that Shaped an American Classic is more than just a book about a legendary affair but one worth reading for a host of other important historical and current trends reasons. The one thing that was annoying was that in the beginning (less than a 1/4 way in) the flow of the narrative  was a series of fits of starts and stops.

Copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.