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West of Sunset
by Stewart O'Nan


Overview - A rich, sometimes heartbreaking (Dennis Lehane) novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald s last years in Hollywood
Look out for City of Secrets coming from Viking on April 26, 2016

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, uncertain man whose literary success was long over.  Read more...


 
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More About West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan
 
 
 
Overview
A rich, sometimes heartbreaking (Dennis Lehane) novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald s last years in Hollywood
Look out for City of Secrets coming from Viking on April 26, 2016

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, uncertain man whose literary success was long over. In poor health, with his wife consigned to a mental asylum and his finances in ruins, he struggled to make a new start as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By December 1940, he would be dead of a heart attack.
Those last three years of Fitzgerald s life, often obscured by the legend of his earlier Jazz Age glamour, are the focus of Stewart O Nan s gorgeously and gracefully written novel. With flashbacks to key moments from Fitzgerald s past, the story follows him as he arrives on the MGM lot, falls in love with brassy gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, begins work on The Last Tycoon, and tries to maintain a semblance of family life with the absent Zelda and daughter, Scottie.
Fitzgerald s orbit of literary fame and the Golden Age of Hollywood is brought vividly to life through the novel s romantic cast of characters, from Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway to Humphrey Bogart. A sympathetic and deeply personal portrait of a flawed man who never gave up in the end, even as his every wish and hope seemed thwarted, West of Sunset confirms O Nan as possibly our best working novelist (Salon).

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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780670785957
  • ISBN-10: 0670785954
  • Publisher: Viking Pr
  • Publish Date: January 2015
  • Page Count: 289
  • Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.12 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Biographical
Books > Fiction > Historical - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-10-06
  • Reviewer: Staff

The last few years of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, when he lived in Hollywood (the title alludes to Los Angeles’s Sunset Boulevard), are the subject of this earnest but only fitfully interesting novel from O’Nan (Last Night at the Lobster). The book inadvertently illustrates the truth of Fitzgerald’s famous dictum: “There are no second acts in American lives.” Conventional wisdom has it that Fitzgerald went back to Hollywood for money—surely true with his wife, Zelda, a patient at an expensive mental hospital in North Carolina—but this novel articulates a broader rationale: “He’d come west not just for the money but to redeem his previous failures here.” There’s something touching (if slightly surreal) about the author of The Great Gatsby hoping for redemption by writing film scripts, but O’Nan’s Fitzgerald too often conjures the reader’s pity, with his desperate need for money, fame, and love—from readers and romantic interests—and his alcoholism. The plot adds romantic intrigue to the mix in the form of Sheilah Graham, the L.A. gossip columnist (like Fitzgerald, a parvenu) who became Fitzgerald’s lover. The book is thoroughly researched, featuring a huge supporting cast of famous players—Humphrey Bogart, Ernest Hemingway, and Dorothy Parker, among others—but it feels more like a television docudrama than a fully realized novel. (Jan.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Exploring Fitzgerald's last days

It’s easy to forget that by the time he was 41, F. Scott Fitzgerald was washed up. His books were out of print, magazines weren’t interested in his stories and his monthly royalties were down to pocket change. In 1937, he went to Hollywood, where he struggled to make a living writing screenplays, barely staying one step ahead of his creditors. It is these lean years that Stewart O’Nan examines in his brilliant biographical novel West of Sunset.

When Fitzgerald arrived in Hollywood, his wife, Zelda, was in a mental hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and their daughter, Scottie, was lodged in an East Coast boarding school. Overcome with guilt and plagued by the alcohol addiction that would lead to a fatal heart attack just three years later, Fitzgerald worked as a studio screenwriter for projects both notable (Gone with the Wind) and forgotten (A Yank at Oxford), surrounded by colleagues such as Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Humphrey Bogart. At the same time, he met and fell in love with Sheilah Graham, a British gossip columnist with her own complicated past. Their relationship sustained him and also made it possible for him to work on his final novel, The Last Tycoon. But he still returned east regularly to see Zelda or take her on small trips—once, he even brought her to her family’s home in Alabama for a trial stay.

O’Nan has always found the drama inherent in hard work (Last Night at the Lobster) and in the nuances of personal relationships (Emily, Alone), and West of Sunset combines both. As glamorous a subject as Hollywood in the 1930s is, the small moments work best in this poignant novel: the guilt Fitzgerald feels over not spending his holidays with his wife and daughter; the awkward friendship between Scottie and Sheilah; and the struggles that Fitzgerald has alone with his typewriter. O’Nan handles these situations with the utmost sympathy. He paints a deeply personal portrait of a man on his last legs—financially, creatively and physically—and as painful as the subject matter is, it is also a pleasure to read. West of Sunset is truly one great writer exploring the life and work of another.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews