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This book beautifully walks the fine line between historical fiction and biography. It depicts Fitzgerald's troubled and frustrating last years in Hollywood, struggling against being a has-been and desperately trying to get work to pay for Zelda's sanitarium and their daughter Scottie's education, all while dealing with his own alcoholism and trying to live a "normal" life with his mistress Sheila Graham. Half of the literary and film worlds of the 1930s makes an appearance, and O'Nan intersperses flashbacks of Scott's and Zelda's lives for rich background and context.
David— From West of Sunset
“This novel begins after F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda have streaked across the Jazz Age sky like bright, shiny shooting stars. Scott is in Hollywood working as a script doctor and shakily holding on to sobriety; Zelda is in a mental hospital clinging to sanity just as tenuously. Unaccustomed to the workaday world, Scott struggles to prove his worth in Hollywood by showing up to work on time, paying his bills, and living a life of quiet desperation. Gone are the days of wine and roses; Scott must now learn to live as if there is a tomorrow. O'Nan offers a subtle portrait of an American icon as an ordinary man attempting to redefine himself after nearly losing it all.”
— Kerry Spaulding, University Book Store, Mill Creek, WA
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).