Book Review: “West of Sunset” by Stewart O’Nan

My significant other introduced me to Stewart O’Nan many years ago with “Last Night at the Lobster.”  I skimmed through it having been in the process of attending one of the schools Mr. O’Nan mentions in the book.

At the library Mr. O’Nan’s name on the book caught my eye and once I read the dust jacket, I was even more intrigued: F. Scott Fitzgerald.  One author I haven’t read in a long time and need to fill in the gaps with.  His last years?  I didn’t even know he struggled at the end until I read the book.  40 when he died? I didn’t know that either.  Reading “West of Sunset” helped fill in some of the unknown gaps I had.  I know Mr. O’nan’s book is a work of fiction but he has filled in a slice of life most people never think about.

I knew about the alcoholism and Zelda but never knew he had a daughter and just how much traveling they actually did.  I really appreciate the frankness of the book and the reality of the inner and outer dialogues.  I appreciate the reality of his last years: the struggles, the human coming through, not just the “myth” of the author.  Reading this make me think of something I have not thought of in years: is he one of those tragic heroes I always learned about, was asked about on final exams and to write about in countless papers?  Yes and no.  He made his decisions, he made his choices.  A hero?  That question remains open.  Literary hero, yes, otherwise…..

Read this book if you are into the Jazz Age, Hollywood, movie stars, writing, geography, psychology,and just history in general.  It was well worth all the fines I paid to keep it and read it.

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