book reviews by Althea

Speak Easy – Catherynne Valente **

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Speak Easy
Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Quite certainly, the author had an enormous amount of fun writing this. However, it failed to grab me. I found the dense, faux-1920’s slang a slog to get through; it made the short book feel far longer than it actually is; and I didn’t feel that the story contained enough of a payoff.

The events take place in a hotel which is a metaphor for the world – paradise up top and the underworld in the basement. In this hotel, along with a bohemian rag-bag of eccentric denizens, lives Zelda Fair, a fictional analogue of Zelda Fitzgerald. Zelda’s the ‘It Girl’ of her day, lovely and wildly talented, but living a carefree and partying lifestyle while she waits for whatever it is she’s really good at to reveal itself to her.

Zelda Fitzgerald’s own writing has been described as “filled with verbal flourishes and complex metaphors.” ‘Speak Easy’ emulates that, as it echoes the theme of Fitzgerald’s novel (‘Save Me the Waltz’) and perhaps, Fitzgerald’s own life, as it talks about women striving to be recognized for their artistic output and too often being squelched by the men in their lives.

It’s an ambitious and interesting novella, but ultimately it didn’t really work for me.

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