Isn’t the above valentine charming? It delights me so much I can’t help but share it. But it’s also a clear reminder of what’s up for me. I’ve been thinking a great deal about relationships lately. My mind seems obsessed with working some things out, even taking the task into my dreamtime of late. And it occurs to me this might be a good time to share a peek at the various books about relationships I’ve immersed myself in so far this year.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.
This is a first-person fictional account of Zelda’s marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s rather interesting having a look back into the 1920s (and beyond) when Zelda and F. Scott were at the height of their popularity, and glimpses into the lives of the literary and art circles they traveled in. While I actually knew very little about Zelda, I suspect from the author’s carefully researched background for this novel, Zelda wasn’t well understood or considered popularly anything but F Scott’s wife/companion/muse during her lifetime. So kudos for giving us a glimpse of what is so often true of women associated with more well-known partners.
On the other hand this was difficult to read in the sense of how privileged and indulgent the lifestyles depicted were. For some reason it feels different to read F. Scott’s work which depicted the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age, and another to understand they were actually living those excesses extravagantly. Add into that issues of alcoholism, mental illness, crippling insecurities and it’s no surprise their marriage was a turbulent mess.
But underlying it all, and the questions in my mind that I keep returning to as I think about this book, are the struggles people have to figure out who they are. F. Scott was clear he wanted to be known as an extraordinary writer and Zelda wanted to be something other than a small town Southern girl whose wildish behaviors were not well-received. But F. Scott couldn’t unhook himself from the paradigm of his worth being dependent on others opinion of him, and Zelda couldn’t figure out her own boundaries, and together they were both so co-dependent and unbalanced, love was never going to be enough to keep them afloat.
Knowing ourselves, and knowing ourselves in relationship with others is clearly the work of our lifetime, with likely lots of stumbling and falling down as a given. But I think we have to be both honest in our inquiries and truthful about our needs.
I can’t say that I’d hardily recommend this one, but I’m not sorry I read it. And bonus points because it’s an easy win for the Z entry in the A-to-Z Reading Challenge I’m participating in. But in keeping with my practice of awarding a rating based on floriography, the language of flowers, giving a hint at the plot as well as my appraisal, I would offer a bouquet of Columbine (folly), Dahlia (instability), and Major Convolvulus (extinguished hopes).
Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin.
Evangeline literally becomes irresistible to others thanks to a gift of scent her deceased grandmother left for her. It comes with a warning not to remove the stopper on the bottle unless “you want everything in your life to change.” And change things do, leading Evangeline into a wild ride through New Orleans caught in between two lovers, one “good” and more conventional and the other “darker” and more compelling.
There are descriptive images, especially of what it’s like to be a perfumer and navigating the world through the gifts of one’s nose – that literally delighted me. Not everyone “sees” the world through their nose, and when I find someone doing it and who speaks that language, it feels like such a gift to me to find a kindred. Many points in the plus column.
On the other hand, I wasn’t that impressed with the exploration of the relationships or the depth of the characters. So minus points.
Margot Berwin has written another book The Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire which I consider a more engaging read. Still, I’m always interested in stories about perfumers, so this wasn’t a write-off for me.
Floriography rating: an arrangement of Circaea (spell); Columbine (folly); and Hazel (reconciliation).
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
I’d categorize this book as a young adult coming of age sci fi/fantasy story that proved thought provoking.
What does it mean to be human? To have a soul? To be sovereign? To want to be true to yourself and be in relationship with others? What does it mean to be different, unique, marginalized? Who has power? Why? What is love? How far will parents go to save a child, and what burden is it to be the one who is saved or not saved?
My floriography rating for this one is a bouquet of Silver Leafed Geranium (recall); Honeysuckle (bonds of love); and Wild Plum (independence).
While I can’t truly say Instapoetry is my fave genre, there were two titles in my TBR pile and I enjoyed them both. They each reiterated in their own way the truth that love can be exquisitely difficult and profoundly beautiful, whether it last for a short time or longer.
The Dark Between Stars by Atticus.
Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur.
For both I offer a single-flower tribute of Syrian Mallow (consumed by love).
What about you? What are you reading? What’s consuming your thoughts? Are your dreams especially powerful at the moment? Do tell – you know I love to hear.