Reviews of West of Sunset from Tweed’s, HuffPo, and Chicago Tribune

Considering the abundance of material by and about Fitzgerald, it might be reasonable to ask what a novelization of his life might offer. The answer, like Fitzgerald’s best writing, is simple and beautiful—it’s an amazing story. Focusing on the final years of his life, Stewart O’Nan’s remarkable new novel, West of Sunset, shows Fitzgerald in Hollywood hoping to engender that elusive “second act.”

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huffpobooks

In his new novel West of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan imagines Fitzgerald’s last years with passionate intensity (and I do not use the phrase with W.B. Yeats’s negative edge). Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald have long been subjected to fictionalized autobiography, in poor Zelda’s case less historical fiction than what I call, with dismay, hysterical fiction. Such novels often claim to be thoroughly researched – a paradoxical claim for fiction. Some are well-written and engaging, and some are awful, simply capitalizing on the golden Fitzgerald name. West of Sunset does not invoke that name. Its cover does not feature famous faces, but evokes Hollywood of the Golden Years, foregrounded by an old typewriter (Fitzgerald hand-wrote, but, in Hollywood, appreciated the plentifully-availably typists). Within, O’Nan has made not only a good novel, but a sensitive, sad tribute to a writer he clearly loves.

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O’Nan, author of more than a dozen works of fiction, skillfully pulls us into Fitzgerald’s gilded and yet familiar world. He brings the Hollywood legends to life. By the end, they feel like friends, one of O’Nan’s aims.

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