West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan review – a fine fictional F Scott Fitzgerald
Sadness, estrangement and promise mark the last three years of the Great Gatsby author’s life as a helpless Hollywood hack
O’Nan imagines the last three years of Fitzgerald’s life, from 1937 to 1940, less as a second act than an intermission; a moment of uncertainty, in which the familiar scenery disappeared. West of Sunset captures the sadness of such moments, but also their promise: as its second epigraph states, “nothing was impossible – everything was just beginning.”
The gossip columnist who made Hollywood
“Few people who grew up against that kind of backdrop in the early 20th century ever escaped poverty, but Sheilah was a pretty incredible woman,” says American author Stewart O’Nan, whose latest novel West of Sunset is a fictionalised account of the last three years of the life of F Scott Fitzgerald when he lived with Graham.
“Her first job as a teenager was in a department store, but she had her sights set on much bigger things and became a music hall dancer. It gave her a taste of the entertainment business and before she left for America she had also begun writing a column for the Daily Express.”