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Scottie the Daughter Of...: The Life of Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith Hardcover – June 1, 1995
"Children of Blood and Bone"
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From Publishers Weekly
The only child of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, Frances Scott Fitzgerald (1921-1986), nicknamed Scottie, was a Washington Post columnist, playwright, composer and producer of musicals and a Democratic Party insider. This harrowing biography by her daughter shows that Scottie adored her alcoholic father but felt oppressed by his celebrity. Blocking out her mother's descents into insanity, Scottie, as depicted here, developed into a maddeningly controlling person who manipulated her four children until they were driven to rebellion. One son, Tim, shot himself in 1973 after years of mental instability. In an alternately touching and plodding narrative, Lanahan, an artist and illustrator, describes her power struggles with a mother whom she resented for her self-preoccupation, her heavy drinking and her hasty remarriage in 1967 to Grove Smith after divorcing lawyer Jack Lanahan. By generously quoting from Scottie's unpublished and unfinished 74-page memoir as well as from letters, diaries and interviews, Lanahan sheds new light on the tumultuous Fitzgerald family saga. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Publisher
The first biography of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's daughter, Scottie, is written by her own daughter and provides an insider's look into this exalted, brilliant, yet troubled American family.
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Eleanor Lanahan, Fitzgerald's granddaughter, has written a beautiful memoir about her mother, Frances Scott Fitzgerald. She describes Scottie as "extraordinary" and indeed she was: not because she happened to be the daughter of a celebrated couple, but because, in her own right, she was a human being with a high social conscience and the will to back it up with action. She was also a journalist and a fiction writer and this book presents a rare opportunity to read some of her short stories, one of which tells the tale of a young woman invited to a party where she discovers she's there not for herself, but because of famous connections.
I only expected to fill in some gaps about Fitzgerald, but this book is far more comprehensive than I would have believed before I read it. Thank you to the publisher for allowing Eleanor to write at this length. She draws direct quotes and passages from text Scottie wrote before her death, possibly for an autobiography. Therefore we get two voices here, the mother and the daughter, each speaking from a different perspective. A heavily edited version would have been far less rich.
Someone said to me, when I mentioned what I was reading, "Oh, another tell-all book about celebrities." This is anything but. The family "secrets," if they were that, are tactfully presented as only one part of the mosaic that makes up this family. What motivates an author to share such detail? Perhaps the willingness to dig deep inside and examine the reality of one's own reactions to tragedy, loss, fame, money, and growing up in an environment like Washington society. For Scottie was a player in the Capitol, a society matron at times but always dedicated to Democratic politics. To lighten the load, included is the priceless story of George McGovern's presidential campaign as she participated in it, and the deadbeat Warren Beatty undermining it with his very large ego. Mother and daughter both display serious writing talent; you know this when you feel you are in the room trying to cope with Beatty and other celebrities whose egos come first; I laughed out loud. Good writers bring us immediacy of past events.
The book flows beautifully from chapter to chapter, and I have read every word---unlike some books, where boring passages must be skipped to keep the flow. I have read many books about Fitzgerald and I think this is a major contribution to his history, and will be increasingly valued in the future. And I do hope that Scottie had some understanding in her lifetime that she was indeed "extraordinary" for herself alone.
I had intended to read only the beginning part which includes Scott and Zelda, but I was deeply drawn into the story of Scottie herself. Same as with her parents, I think one gets drawn in because one identifies with the disillusionments, self-doubts, and failures that these famous people struggled with in their lives, just as all of us do. I certainly felt sympathetic to Scottie throughout the book, and also comforted in a sense by our shared "human condition."
Much of Scottie's story is told through her writings - letters, articles, etc. - and so the reader can learn about Scottie's character from her own words. I came to admire her greatly for being resolutely cheerful, energetic, industrious, and supportive, caring and helpful toward her family as well as a wide sphere of people, many elderly and/or needy. I also admire her liberal values and her Adlai-through-Mondale tireless election volunteerism. Despite her conflicted feelings about being "the daughter of" she did a fine job in that role, made significant contributions, and did very well by her parents - she deserves their gratitude.
Scottie's eldest daughter, who wrote this book, gave a very complete and honest picture from her point of view. Once started, I found this book hard to put down. It is well-written and contains many eloquent and moving passages.
I am glad that in the end, her children came to truly and deeply appreciate her. I thank her daughter for the exhaustive work she undertook so as to share Scottie with us.
I live near Rockville, Maryland, and after I finish my Fitzgerald reading jag, I look forward to visiting and laying flowers at the graves of Scott, Zelda and Scottie.
Eleanor Lanahan, Scottie's daughter, has done a truly amazing job of putting all the pieces together.
Thank you, Eleanor.