Book Review: Call Me Zelda, by Erika Robuck

I first encountered Erika's work when I read and reviewed her second novel, Hemingway's Girl, for Shelf Awareness. Like Hemingway's GirlCall Me Zelda is rich with incredibly well-research historical detail, using the framework of history to build a carefully imagined story--this time centering on the king and queen of the Jazz Age.

Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald were famous in their day, but beneath the shimmering surface of their lives lay a lurking chaos born of insecurity, competition and alcoholism. Call Me Zelda centers on this looming threat, starting with Zelda’s stay at Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Baltimore and continuing into the years following her discharge from the institution. Robuck approaches the Fitzgeralds’ complicated relationship with each other and with the rest of the world through the eyes of Anna Howard, a nurse who befriends Zelda at Phipps. As Anna works with Zelda to recall moments of Zelda’s past, revisiting moments of her past so she can learn to look to the future, she finds herself drawn into the chaos of the Fitzgeralds’ life more wholly than she had intended. Soon she is battling not only Zelda’s demons but her own, struggling to move past the loss of her husband in the war and the death of her daughter shortly after.

While we can never know the full truth of the Fitzgeralds' situation (Was Zelda truly insane? Or was she misdiagnosed? Calling for help?), Call Me Zelda offers readers an interesting approach to the troubles of this famous literary couple, providing a third-party view of their situation without intruding so much on history so as to distort those facts we do have. This third party also affords Robuck the opportunity to explore more of the Jazz Age than the lens of the Fitzgeralds might otherwise have allowed for: the lingering affects of World War I, the trials of widowhood, the difficulties of losing a child. The resulting novel proves to be as much a tribute to the two most famous figures of the Jazz Age as it is a tribute to the power of friendship and love to sustain a person through the most trying of times--of which, we know, Zelda Fitzgerald had many.


You might also like:

Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck
Z: A Novel of Zelda by Therese Ann Fowler
Beautiful Fools by R. Clifton Spargo
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


Thoughts from other bookworms:


This review based on an original review written for Shelf Awareness for Readers.
Call Me Zelda | Erika Robuck | NAL | Trade Paper | 352 pages | May 2013 | Buy from an independent near you


  1. Erika Robuck came to speak at my local indie not too long ago and I was able to pick up a copy of this, but still haven't had a chance to read it. It was great to hear her talk about the process of choosing the perspective, I can't wait to get some time in my reading pile to explore it.

    1. She's a local-to-me author so I've met her a few times, and always love to hear her talk about her writing process!


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