Once Again to Zelda by Marlene Wagman – Geller

When you read a book, do you normally look at the author’s dedication? I always do and I often wonder about it. I am a curious person and I always want to find out why the author has decided to dedicate his or her book to that specific person. Well, I don’t need to wonder any longer, at least when it comes to Literature’s most engaging dedications, as Marlene Wagman – Geller’s well researched book Once Again to Zelda sheds light upon these fascinating inscriptions.

Why did L. Frank Baum dedicate his book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to his wife and how did he come up with his idea for this memorable novel? Why did Herman Melville dedicate his exceptional novel Moby Dick to Nathaniel Hawthorne? Out of pure admiration or was there more to it? Mary Shelley dedicated Frankenstein to her father. But was their relationship simply a father-daughter relationship or was it more than that? Once Again to Zelda gives answers to all of these questions and uncovers the intriguing stories behind the dedications in fifty classic books. From Lewis Carroll and J. K. Rowling to Dan Brown, Marlene Wagman – Geller takes us on a journey through Literature’s most alluring dedications, providing us with some sad and romantic tales and at the same time, giving us an insight into the lives of our favorite authors.

But now, let’s have a closer look at one of these dedications. I have chosen to talk about Charlotte Bronte’s dedication to William M. Thackeray. As you may know, Charlotte Bronte is one of my favorite authors and even though I knew that she dedicated the second edition of Jane Eyre to Thackeray, I did not know that it caused so much uproar. In order to understand that, one must be familiar with the lives of these wonderful authors. When William Thackeray read Jane Eyre for the first time, he was impressed by Charlotte’s work and he highly praised it. Thus, when Charlotte Bronte heard about Thackeray’s enthusiastic words, she dedicated the second edition of her novel to him, given the fact that she admired him very much. However, little did Charlotte know that her dedication would become the topic of discussion throughout Victorian London. This happened because the events and characters in Jane Eyre displayed the real lives of Bronte and Thackeray. You may know that Charlotte Bronte’s novel is very autobiographical, and when you consider her negative experience at the boarding school and her experience as a governess, you can detect similarities between Charlotte and her heroine Jane. In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester’s first wife, Bertha, is mad and she is locked up in an attic. In real life, William M. Thackeray’s wife Isabella had suffered from mental illness and was confined to their London home. Furthermore, just as Mr. Rochester hires Jane Eyre as a governess, William Thackeray had employed a governess to care for his children. Mr. Rochester’s wife and Isabella had become mad after four years of marriage, and thus, these coincidences led to many public speculations and people believed that Jane Eyre was based on Thackeray’s situation at home. They thought that Charlotte had worked as a governess for William’s children and that the two had an affair. In addition to that, they concluded that Bronte dedicated her novel to Thackeray because she was still in love with him. These rumors were of course untrue and Charlotte deeply apologized to William for all the trouble she had caused him when she dedicated her novel to him.

Therefore, you can see what a simple dedication can set in motion and how much there is to tell when it comes to an author’s dedication!

Once Again to Zelda is a must – read for book lovers, as they will delight in reading about their favorite authors and learning about their lives. I must say that I truly loved this book and I found it very interesting to gain knowledge of these inscriptions and to read about the compelling stories behind them. So if you are curious to find out who Zelda was and why F. Scott Fitzgerald dedicated The Great Gatsby “once again” to her, then I would highly recommend this book to you, as you will enjoy hearing about Marlene Wagman – Geller’s work as a Dedication Detective and exploring some gripping stories!

I would like to thank the author for sending me a copy of her great book!


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Aarti
    Mar 30, 2010 @ 20:07:49

    Wow, this sounds really great! I had no idea about Bronte and Thackeray- how fascinating. I know that with Austen, the Prince of Wales asked her to dedicate a book to him, but she didn’t want to (she did, anyway). How great for a whole book to do this kind of research!


  2. Claire (The Captive Reader)
    Mar 30, 2010 @ 22:42:20

    This sounds delightful! There is always room in my life for more random literary trivia!


  3. Alice Teh
    Mar 31, 2010 @ 01:39:52

    I love looking at the dedication section and I always, always read the acknowledgments too. You got me interested in this book!


  4. Nymeth
    Mar 31, 2010 @ 07:57:34

    I had no idea about any of that! Those Victorians really loved to gossip, didn’t they? They’re not very different from us when it comes to that, I guess 😛 I confess I’ve never paid much attention to dedications until now, but I think I will in the future.

    PS: I love your new header!


  5. Sandy
    Mar 31, 2010 @ 11:28:33

    FASCINATING! I think it is hilarious that one innocent dedication created so much havoc (although I’m sure Bronte didn’t think it was so funny). Thank you for bringing this book to our attention. I doubt there is a bibliophile around that wouldn’t want to read this!


  6. vivienne
    Mar 31, 2010 @ 18:46:40

    I never knew that about Charlotte Bronte. I have never really taken notice of who the books are dedicated to before, but I definitely will now. How intriguing this books sounds.


  7. Lua
    Mar 31, 2010 @ 19:17:08

    I always look at the dedications and wonder the story behind them… Just like you, I’m a curious person, and I love learning interesting things about writers…
    This book is a great pick, thank you for the suggestion and the amazing review Andreea.


  8. Kristen M.
    Apr 01, 2010 @ 04:44:22

    This sounds like a fascinating book! There’s always room in my brain for more small historical anecdotes. Thanks for the review. 🙂


  9. Andreea
    Apr 01, 2010 @ 10:55:29

    Aarti: I did not know that about Austen, thanks for telling me about it!

    Claire: I know, I love these books too!

    Alice: I also must admit that I read the acknowledgements too!

    Nymeth: Yes, these Victorians loved to gossip, and since then little has changed:) As to the header, thanks. But I must say that I always try to find ‘the perfect’ one, and that’s why I change it so often. I am never happy with it and I want a header that probably doesn’t even exist (it exists only in my mind).

    Sandy: Yes, it’s indeed very fascinating! You’re right, every book lover should read this one because I think everyone who loves books will enjoy this one!

    Vivienne: I hope you’ll read it in the future!

    Lua: You’re welcome! Yes, I am very curious and I always want to find out things:)

    Kristen: You’re welcome! Yes, you’re right, there’s always room for such books!


  10. Jenny
    Apr 03, 2010 @ 02:56:17

    This sounds really interesting! I always read the dedications!!


  11. Hazra
    Apr 04, 2010 @ 03:22:53

    This is really an interesting book. Honestly, I haven’t thought much about dedications, but your review puts them in a whole new light. I’ll pay more attention to the dedications from now on.


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