Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

Written by R. Clifton Spargo
Review by Waheed Rabbani

“That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool,” wrote Fitzgerald in his famous book, The Great Gatsby. Spargo has used those words to title his brilliant novel, based on the little-known last vacation of Zelda and Scott, the ill-fated “Beautiful Fools.”

In April 1939, following a long separation due to Zelda’s stay in mental hospitals on the East Coast and Scott’s working and drinking hard and being unfaithful in Hollywood, the Fitzgeralds take a trip to Cuba. Scott is hopeful that this would be the elixir to revive their foundering marriage. In Havana and on the beaches, they encounter many local Cubans and Europeans who help them live their accustomed high life. While Scott continues to enjoy his alcohol and chocolate, Zelda begins to feel better. Despite enduring the usual tourist traps, witnessing a gruesome knife fight in a seedy nightclub, a near-romantic liaison with a Spanish-French couple, and Scott getting badly beaten up in a fight, they once again experience the sparks of their former intimacy. However, Zelda’s euphoria begins to evaporate following their visit to a fortuneteller.

Using information from Scott’s and Zelda’s writings and biographies, Spargo has admirably reconstructed their vacation story. Through believable dialogue, flashbacks, and thoughts, the narrative encompasses not only the Cuban holiday but also fleshes out the Fitzgeralds’ former life and their troubled mental state. While the lovers’ tragic ending is well known, the heartbreaking story and evocative descriptions of pre-revolutionary Cuba will keep readers engrossed to the last page. Recommended.