14 January 2019
Zelda Fitzgerald’s only novel, Save Me The Waltz (1932) was written in six weeks after her admission to a sanatorium. It covers the period of her life that her husband F Scott Fitzgerald had been drawing on for years while writing Tender is the Night (1934). Fitzgerald revised her novel under her husband’s guidance, but it sold poorly. She died in 1948. Save Me The Waltz is now recognised as a classic novel of the woman’s experience in fast-moving Jazz Age American society.
The novel opens during the First World War. Alabama Beggs is a Southern belle who makes her début into adulthood with wild parties, dancing and drinking, and flirting with the young officers posted to her home town. When the artist Lieutenant David Knight arrives to join her line of suitors, Alabama marries him. Their life in New York, Paris and the South of France closely mirrors the Fitzgeralds’ own life and their prominent socialising in the 1920s and 1930s as part of what was later called the Lost Generation. Like Zelda, Alabama is an aspiring dancer. She is committed to her dance training, attending ballet classes in Paris every day, but she refuses to accept that she might not become the great dancer that she ardently longs to be, and this threatens her mental health and her marriage.
Erin Templeton’s introduction to Zelda Fitzgerald’s finest literary work discusses how these struggles to become a dancer were the result of Zelda’s need to have a life of her own rather than living in her husband’s shadow.
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