West of Sunset
by Stewart O'Nan
source: review copy from publisher via Netgalley
Regular readers of this blog know I am a huge fan of author Stewart O'Nan. I am in awe of his ability to turn ordinary people and the mundane events of daily life into novels filled with characters and situations that genuinely matter to me. O'Nan also has the distinction of being the only author I have ever pre-ordered.
His new novel, West of Sunset, is a bit of a departure. As you've probably heard, the novel is about F. Scott Fitzgerald, specifically the last three years of his life. He is a "has been" in literary circles, his health is failing, and Zelda is institutionalized. He moves to Hollywood to try his hand at screenwriting. There are no ordinary people or mundane events here. Instead, big time celebrities grace these pages - Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Bogie, Joan Crawford, George Oppenheimer, and the list goes on.
The novels starts off slowly. Very slowly. In fact, I considered abandoning it. HOWEVER, it is Stewart O'Nan and I did request a review copy, so I chose to continue and was eventually rewarded.
Should you read West of Sunset? I do recommend this novel, but with reservations. Hopefully my "Pick or Pass" will help you make your decision.
Pick up West of Sunset if:
- You are a die-hard fan of Stewart O'Nan and want to read everything he has ever written.
- You can't get enough of F. Scott Fitzgerald, his novels, or his life with Zelda.
- You generally enjoy fictionalized accounts of the lives of famous people.
- You appreciate a beautifully written, well-researched piece of fiction which provides insight into the life of its subject.
Pass on West of Sunset if:
- You are curious about Stewart O'Nan and would like to try one of his novels. Do yourself a favor and pick up Last Night at the Lobster instead.
- You don't have much interest in F. Scott Fitzgerald or Hollywood. This will surely bore you to death.
- Your primary interest in the Fitzgerald household is Zelda. She's a minor player here.
- You often wonder why, after so much research on the subject, an author chooses to write a novel instead of a biography.
What do you think? Will you pick or pass?