The Gatsby Affair

Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal that Shaped an American Classic

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Pub Date 08 Aug 2018 | Archive Date 09 Aug 2019

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The Gatsby Affair explores Zelda Fitzgerald’s affair with the French aviator, Edouard Jozan, who served as the prototype for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous creation, Jay Gatsby. This book draws on the Jozan family papers, photographs, and archival materials and takes a bold new look at the creation of The Great Gatsby. 

The romance between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre has been celebrated as one of the greatest of the 20th century. From the beginning, their relationship was a tumultuous one, in which the couple’s excesses were as widely known as their passion for each other. Despite their love, both Scott and Zelda engaged in flirtations that threatened to tear the couple apart. But none had a more profound impact on the two—and on Scott’s writing—as the liaison between Zelda and a French aviator, Edouard Jozan. Though other biographies have written of Jozan as one of Scott’s romantic rivals, accounts of the pilot’s effect on the couple have been superficial at best. In The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal That Shaped an American Classic, Kendall Taylor examines the dalliance between the southern belle and the French pilot from a fresh perspective. Drawing on conversations and correspondence with Jozan’s daughter, as well as materials from the Jozan family archives, Taylor sheds new light on this romantic triangle. More than just a casual fling, Zelda’s tryst with Edouard affected Scott as much as it did his wife—and ultimately influenced the author’s most famous creation, Jay Gatsby. Were it not for Zelda’s affair with the pilot, Scott’s novel might be less about betrayal and more about lost illusions. Exploring the private motives of these public figures, Taylor offers new explanations for their behavior. In addition to the love triangle that included Jozan, Taylor also delves into an earlier event in Zelda’s life—a sexual assault she suffered as a teenager—one that affected her future relationships. Both a literary study and a probing look at an iconic couple’s psychological makeup, The Gatsby Affair offers readers a bold interpretation of how one of America’s greatest novels was influenced.

The Gatsby Affair explores Zelda Fitzgerald’s affair with the French aviator, Edouard Jozan, who served as the prototype for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous creation, Jay Gatsby. This book draws on...

Advance Praise

"Kendall Taylor rips the lid off one of the world’s great literary mysteries—the love triangle between Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and French aviator Edouard Jozan. Brimming with strong research and enchanted writing, Taylor’s engaging account of the love affair and its consequences is sure to stir fans eager to dig into this absorbing chapter in the lives of Scott and Zelda." —Bob Batchelor, author of Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel and Gatsby: The Cultural History of the Great American Novel
"This new telling of Zelda’s affair with French pilot Edouard Jozan is powerfully rendered, thanks to Kendall Taylor’s laudable research. By interweaving bits from Scott and Zelda’s novels, Taylor shows how the French pilot triggered ever deepening fractures in the Fitzgerald marriage, and brings a heart-wrenching light to their lives and their work." —Sally Ryder Brady, author of A Box of Darkness: The Story of a Marriage
"With admirable scholarship, Kendall Taylor takes the reader on a journey into the complex heart of the Jazz Era. Probing the volatile Fitzgerald marriage, she shows the destructive forces unleashed by infidelity, and portrays Zelda as a suppressed creator in her own right. An absorbing study of one of the most fascinating couples of the twentieth century."        —Mary McAuliffe, author of When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends
"Who is Edouard Jozan? The intriguing mystery man in the saga of Scott and Zelda has long eluded literary sleuths. In a stunning feat of research, Kendall Taylor brings the French aviator out of the shadows to reveal how he influenced the writing of a classic novel and left his mark on the marriage of an iconic couple. This is an important, richly detailed biography that will deepen our understanding of American literature." —Marion Meade, author of Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?

"Kendall Taylor rips the lid off one of the world’s great literary mysteries—the love triangle between Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and French aviator Edouard Jozan. Brimming with strong research and...

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Featured Reviews

F. Scott Fitzgerald's books were the stories of those around him, and The Great Gatsby was no different. However, all parties denied an affair during their lifetimes, even though it was highly speculated to have taken place. In The Gatsby Affair; Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal That Shaped an American Classic, Kendall Taylor affirms that it did actually take place. She was given unprecedented access to personal journals and correspondence of all three; Scott, Zelda, and Edouard Jozan which confirm the affair. The Gatsby Affair touches on the affair, but it is more about how the affair effected Scott, Zelda, and their marriage. Ms. Taylor is very knowledgeable about the entire circle of friends that Scott and Zelda were a part of. She has also researched in depth, the asylums and medical practices that were a part of Zelda's life. If you want the facts behind The Great Gatsby, this is the only resource you need!

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I have read quite a few books about Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald including biographies and collections of letters. This is definitely the most detailed and well researched book of the lot. Zelda is viewed in a much more sympathetic light and not stereotyped as a silly flapper girl. Early in the marriage, Scott would chide her for not doing anything important with her life. In fact, she was a very good writer and as a dancer was offered a spot in a couple of ballet companies. When her first stories were published, she was forced to used Scott's name as a co-writer because it was believed no one would be interested if his name was not attached. Her paintings were interesting enough that she had a successful art show. At every turn, she was discouraged by Scott who believed that he should be the one in the limelight. Even though others took her dancing seriously, Scott thought it was ridiculous. When she had an affair with a French aviator, Scott locked her up in her second floor bedroom until she became submissive and gave him up. Zelda was thwarted at every turn in her desire to do something with her life. When he could no longer handle her, he committed to an asylum and her condition deteriorated and she was never her sparkling self again. Nevertheless the bond between the two was never entirely broken.

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The troubled mysteriously complex marriage of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his beautiful wife Zelda Sayre is one of the most fascinating unions in literary history-- and is recalled in the intriguing biographical book; “The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda and The Betrayal That Shaped an American Classic” by award winning author, scholar and historian Kendall Taylor PhD. Dr. Taylor is also the author of “Sometimes Madness is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A Marriage” (2001). This outstanding notable biography of the Fitzgerald’s was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and translated in multiple languages.

Both F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) and Zelda Sayre (1900-48) were from wealthier privileged family backgrounds. When the couple met in Zelda’s hometown in Montgomery, Alabama—Scott was in the Army stationed at Camp Sheridan after discontinuing his studies at Princeton. There was nothing remarkable about him. Zelda, a popular spirited beauty and southern belle with numerous suitors was obviously waiting for a wealthy and/or famous husband. Scott was determined to win Zelda’s affection’s at any cost.
While his regiment was awaiting deployment to France, Scott’s hope to become a war hero was dashed with the signing of the Armistice. Scott was among the first to be discharged when the war ended. Scott began working on his novel-- with the overnight sensational success of “This Side of Paradise” (1920) Scott and Zelda eloped. As a NYC celebrity power couple, the Fitzgerald’s influenced the Roaring Twenties era socially and culturally through Scott’s writings of “The Jazz Age” calling Zelda (his wife and muse) the “original flapper”. The Fitzgerald’s spectacular public antics were widely covered in the press, their dramatic drunken partying, fights and allegations, outrageous conduct that included Zelda frolicking in a NYC water fountain.
The pivotal turning point in their marriage occurred while Scott was writing The Great Gatsby. While living in a villa on the French Rivera, Scott needed large blocks of time in isolation to write (1924). Zelda amused herself (with Scott’s approval) spending time with the dashing French naval pilot Edouard S. Jozan. Their affair was predictable, as were the dramatic scenes that followed. Jozan wisely extracted himself immediately from the situation to avoid conduct issues that may have impacted his military career, and never spoke to Zelda again. He always declined to acknowledge or speak publically of the affair. Surprisingly, Dr. Taylor heard from Edouard’s daughter Martine, who added additional insight of the affair and her father’s character.

Zelda was a gifted creative writer/artist in her own right. Scott used entries from her dairies verbatim in his writing and novel’s, and rejected serious offers from publisher’s to buy Zelda’s writing. Later, Scott’s tendency to use her private writings and her recognizable life situations for material in his novels would be the source of Zelda’s great emotional distress; impeding her ability to get well. Another negative influence was the experimental treatments with the use of Metrazol or Insulin coma induced Electroconvulsive Therapy used in the 1930’s-1940’s. The side effects from these treatments included headaches, acute anxiety, insomnia and obesity. Zelda had several mental breakdowns that led to confinement in numerous psychiatric hospitals; her final admission to Highland Hills, N.C. led to the tragedy that claimed her life.
* During that time period, the Baltimore Sun reported that in the Maryland mental health system only 12 registered nurses supported the care of over 9,000 patients. In North Carolina, the ratio of nurses to patients was even less.

In his younger years Scott’s friends jokingly called him “Scotch Fitzgerald”. The alcoholism affiliated with the writing careers of famous author’s including Fitzgerald is widely known, although Dr. Taylor doesn’t focus on this aspect of the Fitzgerald marriage. At the time of his death, Scott was in poor health, nearly broke-- barely able to afford Zelda’s medical expenses, they were estranged (Zelda could only contact Scott through his publisher) Scott was allegedly involved with British writer columnist Sheilah Graham. Still, his work featured elements of the marital betrayal he had endured years after Zelda’s affair. This combination that blended reality with thinly disguised fiction promoted the success and timeless appeal of Fitzgerald’s writing as readers learned more about Scott and Zelda’s historical legacy along with the people and places affiliated with them. ** With thanks and appreciation to ROMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHING via NetGalley for the advance DDC for the purpose of review.

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I received an advanced copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

I've always been fascinated with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Kendall Taylor does a fantastic job bringing to life the lives of all involved. The book is well researched and goes into great detail.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those who know very little or think they know all there is about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda.

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The more I read about Scott Fitzgerald the more unlikable he becomes, and the more inexcusable his behaviour towards Zelda. This latest exploration of their marriage does nothing to redeem him. It’s an intelligent, well-researched and balanced portrayal of his and Zelda’s marriage, and a compassionate portrait of this poor woman who had so much potential but who was so damaged by what life threw at her. A fascinating read indeed.

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It's no secret that Zelda Fitzgerald had an affair with a French airman named Edouard Jozan. It's also no secret that F. Scott Fitzgerald used these experiences to influence The Great Gatsby and emotionally abused and plagiarized from his wife. Until recently, however, not much has been told from Zelda's side of the story. Author Kendall Taylor has put together a well-researched exploration of the time period and what happened to breakdown two of the most famous people in the 1920s.

The Gatsby Affair is highly atmospheric and does an incredible job explaining the time period, how Zelda and Scott met, and the context of the affair. What the book does an excellent job of is not making Zelda a victim, but explaining why Scott wasn't exactly the best person. The book doesn't put all the blame on either party, which is an interesting take.  

My warning about this book is for readers who are sensitive to reading about sexual assault. Kendall Taylor does some research into an incident that is believed to have happened to Zelda in her youth. 

The Gatsby Affair is available now from Rowman and Littlefield.

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A brilliant study of the Fitzgerald marriage, which I've read about many times but which takes on additional psychological depth and reveals new fracture lines here. Well-rounded perspectives of both Scott and Zelda, and a truly detailed, dimensional examination of Zelda's mental illness.

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As a fan of Zelda Fitzgerald, I was intrigued by the opportunity to learn more about a very specific point in her life, her affair with a French aviator. I came into this knowing a little about the details about Zelda’s life but not so much about Scott. My favorite part of this book was definitely some of the arguments Taylor put forward about the causes of Zelda’s breakdown. The ideas she put forward were logical to me and it really gave me a new perspective and understanding of this part of Zelda’s history. However, I was expecting there to much more about the affair itself. This book focused much more about the entirety of Scott and Zelda’s relationship with the occasional mention of Edouard and how this affected the Fitzgerald’s marriage long afterwards. There was a ton of new information in this book, some of which was incredibly private and I was surprised to know there was a record of in the first place. Overall, while it wasn’t what I was expecting, I enjoyed the new information and new angles on this story.

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I am fairly well versed in Fitzgerald lore. I have read Scott Fitzgerald's books. I have read Zelda's biography and her biographical novel, SAVE ME THE WALTZ. I have read fiction about Scott Fitzgerald's Hollywood years, and I have read both fact and fiction about their sun-soaked days on the French Riviera with the Murphy clan.

But, I was somehow not prepared for the content of THE GATSBY AFFAIR. It is not so much that I encountered new information or was exposed to fresh incidents in their lives---it is more that Kendall Taylor's chronological presentation of their courtship, marriage, and careers left me disillusioned about them at such an early stage in their relationship.

Theirs is a story that does not have a happy ending. And, that is no surprise to anyone who has even a limited interest in their lives. But, the suggestion that Zelda married, not for love, but for opportunity, was a different spin on their relationship for me. Taylor's relentless dedication to the details of Zelda's decline is heartbreaking and difficult to accept. If ever anyone was in need of a health advocate---or, just a friend, it was Zelda Fitzgerald.

Biographers will vary on their interpretation of incidents, but however you choose to view the lives of this couple, it is clear that their reputation as gay, fun-loving and gold-dust spattered sophisticates was only a lot of skillful spin. Zelda was immature and irresponsible and her husband was selfish and destructive. Ms. Taylor may not be breaking new ground with this book, but her research and scholarship very successfully debunked the Fitzgerald myth for me. My heart went out to Zelda for the loss of her youth, beauty and dreams.

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