Publisher's Note:  

A “rich, sometimes heartbreaking” (Dennis Lehane) novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last years in Hollywood

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 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 in the end, even as his every wish and hope seemed thwarted, West of Sunset confirms O’Nan as “possibly our best working novelist” (Salon).

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Viking

West of Sunset

by Stewart O'Nan

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Overall Review:  

In West of Sunset, author Stewart O'Nan blends fact with fiction to explore the last years of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald's turbulent life. Readers are thrown right into a dynamic story, and important background information is provided...eventually. O'Nan does a marvelous job at developing Fitzgerald as a character. As the novel progresses, Fitzgerald becomes almost likeable and his choices easier to understand thanks to O'Nan's strong, articulate writing. As the book is set in Hollywood, the novel is full of celebrities of the time -- Humphrey Bogat, Ernest Hemingway, and Vivien Leigh, to name a few. Unfortunately O'Nan assumes readers know who is who and what starts as a few starlets grows into constant name dropping. Despite its small flaws, West of Sunset is a good read and provides fascinating, little known details about a member of the "Lost Generation", F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Review was of an Advance Reader Copy

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language: 8 religious exclamations, 13 mild obscenities, 1 religious profanity, 9 derogatory names, 2 scatological words, 1 anatomical term and 1 f-word derivative.


Violence/Gore: Several second hand reports of violence involving war, suicide, biting, a character being hit by a hairbrush and a character setting a house on fire; a character imagines/dreams a violent scene; several violent scenes including fistfights, cock fighting, kicking and slapping. 


Sex/Nudity:  Several incidents of kissing; brief mention of homosexuality; several non-sexual depictions of nudity involving swimming, dancing and mention of a striptease; a few sexual references; multiple implied or reported accounts of sexual activity between adults; a brief scene of nudity with sexual innuendo and two brief scenes of sexual activity without explicit detail between adults. 

Mature Subject Matter:  

Extramarital affairs, attempted suicide, mental illness, brief mention of homosexuality, debt and financial troubles, alcoholism. 

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Characters frequently drink and smoke; the main character is drunk for the majority of the book. 

Reviewed By Rachel
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