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Literary wives

New wives’ tales: ‘Significant others’ are filling bookstore shelves

in Non-Fiction by

‘Significant others’ are filling the bookstore shelves. With subjects ranging from Dickens to the American presidents, a burgeoning literary subgenre investigates the influence women have had on famous men. Especially now, with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s memoir, Hard Choices, topping the New York Times bestseller list, it’s high time the women had their say. Hail to the First Lady Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife (2008) is one of my very favorite novels. Laura Bush’s life might not sound like promising material, but this fictional autobiography is a pure delight. When shy librarian Alice falls for Charlie, heir to the Blackwell political dynasty, private tragedies from her past—and her disagreement with her husband’s policies—threaten to emerge. The well-drawn characters defy caricature, but it’s…

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Zelda and Mrs. Hemingway: Literary Wives Take Center Stage

in Fiction by

Zelda Fitzgerald died 66 years ago to the day, in 1948. She had been a patient at Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, off and on for nearly a dozen years. On March 10, fire spread through the hospital and burned nine women alive, including Zelda, who was on a locked ward awaiting electroshock treatment. As much for her turbulent lifestyle as for her horrific death, the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald continues to serve as a tragic muse for contemporary novelists.  Therese Anne Fowler brings to life in wondrous historical detail Zelda’s Alabama upbringing, Scott’s early courtship, and her ambitions for writing and dancing in her novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, now out in paperback. This…

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