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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 of 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, even as his every wish and hope seemed thwarted, West of Sunset confirms O’Nan as “possibly our best working novelist” (Salon).
“A rich, sometimes heartbreaking journey through the disintegration of an American legend.”
Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author
“An achingly nuanced love story and one of the best biographical novels to come along in years. O’Nan’s great achievement here is in so convincingly inhabiting the character of Scott Fitzgerald and of the people surrounding him during his descent into the clarifying depths of 1930s Hollywood.”
T. C. Boyle, New York Times bestselling author
“O’Nan—the king of the quotidian—has changed his brush stroke and given us a picture of another American master, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in the last years of his life…An amazing book.”
Elizabeth Strout, New York Times bestselling author
“O’Nan, an accomplished, award-winning writer who has clearly done his biographical homework, polishes this saga to a seductive sheen, populates it with persuasive incarnations of Dorothy Parker, Humphrey Bogart, Ernest Hemingway, and others, and takes us to a very dark place indeed.”
“O’Nan is an incredibly versatile and charming writer. This novel, which imagines F. Scott Fitzgerald’s troubled time in Hollywood (with cameos by Dorothy Parker, Bogie, and Hemingway), takes up (like much of O’Nan’s work) that essential conundrum of grace struggling with paucity. One brilliant American writer meditating on another—what’s not to love?”
O, The Oprah Magazine
“[A] beautifully written historical novel…which follows Fitzgerald’s stint as a screenwriter during the 1930s, captures that era of Hollywood well, offering juicy scenes with Humphrey Bogart, Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, and other Fitzgerald friends and hangers-on, while lending witty dialogue to his affair with gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, a doomed romance that’s worthy of a classic film.”
“[The] grim yet undeniably fascinating last act of Fitzgerald’s life is the subject of Stewart O’Nan’s gorgeous new novel, West of Sunset…West of Sunset is a pretty fine Hollywood novel, too, but it’s an even finer novel about a great writer’s determination to keep trying to do his best work.”
“Mesmerizing and haunting…The strings O’Nan pulls so deftly are really the mark of a consummate pro, along the lines of Fitzgerald himself…lovingly and believably, the manner in which a writer works—thinks, processes, assimilates, envies—is given life.”
“Nan, in understated prose, renders a heartbreaking portrait of an artist soldiering on in the face of personal and professional ruin…O’Nan’s convincing characterization of a man burdened by guilt and struggling to hold onto his dignity is, at once, a moving testament to grace under pressure and an intimate look at a legend.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Christopher Lane’s narration of this fascinating audiobook is elegant and engrossing. His sonorous voice is ideal for O’Nan’s rich imagining of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last years in Hollywood. With kindness and compassion, Lane entreats the listener to empathize with Fitzgerald as he copes with personal and professional trials…Lane’s performance is as effective as O’Nan’s storytelling. Conversations with notables such as Hemingway and Bogart come across as believable, and descriptions of setting and character quirks are vivid and three-dimensional. This audiobook is outstanding—one that might inspire you to visit the work of the great Fitzgerald himself once again. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.”
“O’Nan taps into primary-source material on Fitzgerald to craft a realistic piece of historical fiction…Fitzgerald comes across as a haunting, multifaceted, sympathetic character…The slide into drugs, alcoholism, and the heart disease that shortened his life is tragic to behold; Fitzgerald fans will mourn his loss all over again.”
“O’Nan places Scott back at center stage, with a sympathetic portrayal of a troubled genius, a kind but deeply flawed man trying to stay on the wagon while keeping the peace between his unstable wife and their teenage daughter…O’Nan has masterfully re-created the feel and ambience of the Hollywood studio system in the late 1930s…An insightful glimpse into a sad period in Fitzgerald’s life.”
“I’ll direct my enthusiasm for West of Sunset to writers who revere Fitzgerald’s short story ‘Babylon Revisited.’ Stewart O’Nan captures Fitzgerald’s mood of spiritual reflection, without trying to imitate Fitzgerald’s voice. This book is an inoculation against self-pity. It’s not a mock Fitzgerald novel but an original portrait of a writer struggling to keep his dignity while trying to make a living. I don’t doubt the biographical details, but it’s a waste of the book to check it against fidelity to fact; if Fitzgerald wasn’t friendly with Humphrey Bogart and Mayo Methot in 1939, he is now. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in years and it deserves a cheering crowd.”
Michael Tolkin, American filmmaker and novelist
2 out of 2 (100%) recommend this productWrite a review
An interesting novelization of F. Scott Fitzgerald's final three yearsMarch 18, 2016This is a novelization of the last three years of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, when he returned to Hollywood in 1937 to write screenplays. He did this because he needed the money. Years of lavish spending and drinking, combined with no successful novels for quite a few years, and having to pay for his wife Zelda’s stay in a mental hospital and his daughter’s schooling, caused this precarious financial situation. Very little of what he wrote made it onto the screen, and he was removed from quite a few projects. It does not appear (at least in this book) that this was necessarily that his writing was not good, but more because that is how it was (and may still be). Many writers would be assigned to work on movie scripts, and they could come-and-go during the process, and only one or two might end up with their name on the screen credits. Throughout this time, his drinking, which he had under control when he got to town, gets worse. This could have been part of his difficulty writing, but O’Nan presents Fitzgerald as working very hard at doing his best. He has an affair with gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, which causes him much internal conflict as well as conflict with Zelda, who gets word of it. However, Graham is definitely a positive influence, because she helps to keep his drinking under control (at least sporadically). One gets the feeling that he might have died earlier than he did if she had not been around. The atmosphere of Hollywood and the movie business at the time is well-rendered, as are the mental institution where Zelda lives and flashbacks to their younger days. Before listening to this book, I did not know much detail about Fitzgerald’s final days. Even though this is a novelist’s take on them, I get the feeling that O’Nan thoroughly-researched them and presents a balanced view. His writing is absorbing and not sensational at all. Christopher Lane’s narration is excellent.
A Beautiful & Heartbreaking Look at a LegendApril 24, 2015West of Sunset is a beautiful and sombre look at the last years of a literary legend. This book comes at a perfect time as The Great Gatsby just celebrated its 90th anniversary. I felt the thematic similarities between Fitzgerald's classic and this novel- the feelings of nostalgia, the idealization of the past, the feeling that everything you've wanted is just slightly out of reach. I highly recommend this story. Christopher Lane is the perfect narrator choice!
Christopher Lane is an award-winning actor, director, and narrator. He is a three-time winner of the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration and recipient of ten AudioFile Earphones Awards.
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- Publisher: Blackstone Audio
- Genre: Fiction/Literary
- ISBN-13: 978-1-4830-5034-8