<b>Imagining F. Scott's former flame</b>Caroline Preston's third novel, <b>Gatsby's Girl</b>, tells the story of the brief and disastrous romance of Ginevra Perry and F. Scott Fitzgerald and what followed in Ginevra's life. Ginevra was 16 and Fitzgerald 19 when they met through a mutual friend; their brief relationship was filled with ardent letters. Ginevra called Fitzgerald clever with words but mostly saw him as an annoying drunk. He said she threw him over with supreme boredom and indifference after he visited her in Lake Forest, Illinois, and attended an engagement party with her, where she met the man she would later marry, aviator Billy Granger. Preston's Ginevra and the circumstances of her relationship with Fitzgerald are based on a real-life love of Fitzgerald's, socialite Ginevra King, who was the inspiration for some of Fitzgerald's most famous female characters, including Isabelle in <i>This Side of Paradise</i> and Daisy Buchanan in <i>The Great Gatsby</i>. Preston builds her story on the facts known about Ginevra and Fitzgerald's relationship, but she takes liberties with the rest of Ginevra's life in this clever and imaginative work. An unhappy marriage, a mentally disturbed child who is obsessed with movie stars, and the search for herself in Fitzgerald's stories punctuate the unfulfilled life of Fitzgerald's former flame. When Ginevra visits Fitzgerald in Hollywood some 20 years after their romance, the two epitomize Fitzgerald's cracked-plate metaphor: not good enough for company to see but still serviceable for midnight snacks and the storing of leftovers. This strange and lovely story is incredibly real, at times feeling more like a biography than a novel. Though this is a work of fiction, it should be read by anyone interested in Fitzgerald's work, the times in which he lived and the women who inspired him to write stories that have touched generations of readers.
<i>Sarah E. White is a freelance writer in Arkansas.</i>