Publication Date: 1932 (First edition)
Publisher: Vintage (Random House)
Pages: 225 pages
Those of you that follow me on Tumblr will know that I have been obsessed with The Lost Generation authors. In the never ending search of a thesis topic, I have now decided to focus on them and first up is Zelda Fitzgerald - a woman I've read so much about, but never read what she wrote. And thankfully I decided to change that.
Save Me the Waltz is the mostly autobiographical story of Zelda, represented by the main character Alabama, from her childhood until her father passes away, and focuses mostly on her marriage with David Knight. David is a successful painter and when the couple moves to Paris, Alabama tries to find her own creativity in a world controlled by men. She starts ballet at 27, just like Zelda did, and describes beautifully the agony and release she finds in this.
While this book is often read as a companion novel to Fitzgerald's work, mostly Tender is the Night, this discredits the creativity that can be found in Save Me the Waltz. While it does focus on the relationship between Zelda and Scott, and there are some clear parallels in events that happened in the book and in their real lives, the book mainly focuses on Alabama's struggle to find herself in a male oriented world. While in New York, she has nothing to do and aimlessly, and unhappily, wanders after her husband. In Paris, she discovers ballet and throws herself into it, even though her body cannot really handle the work.
This is where Zelda's fiction truly shines. My edition of the book followed the original manuscript which was filled with grammatical errors and words put in places that don't make any sense. Though this might bother some readers, it gave me the feel of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and helped me relate to the main character. We are thrown into a world we cannot fully grasp, no matter how often we read a sentence or even the whole book, just like Alabama is navigating a world she'll never grasp. The descriptions are beautiful though and it was so easy to feel the pain from all the ballet training. All the female characters, who are only properly introduced once Alabama enters the female world of dancing, are realistic and well-rounded and all struggle with finding their way in post war Paris.
Save Me the Waltz can be a confusing read and you might have to give yourself a few pages to get into, but it is also one of the most beautiful and gripping books I've ever read. It made me ache for Zelda Fitzgerald's talent; if she can produce a novel like this in just six weeks while admitted in a mental hospital, I wish we could have discovered the books she could have written earlier in her life. She might be the wife of one of the most famous authors, but she was a talented author in herself, who was able to describe the struggles of being a woman and the world of Parisian ballet in a way I've never encountered before. This book is one to read, just for the beauty of itself.