Review: This Side of Paradise

This Side of Paradise

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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You’ve probably read The Great Gatsby. Or at least you skimmed it or checked out the Cliff’s Notes because you were forced to in high school. Or at least you’ve heard that it’s the most perfect book written by an American (I would disagree though). Or for any of these reasons you’ve decided that you want to read something else that Fitzgerald wrote, perhaps you’re considering This Side of Paradise. It’s got a nice title, it’s not too long, there’s a copy of it at the used book store for 2 dollars. Well if this review serves any purpose for you, it’s to say—don’t waste your time.

The story of Amory Blaine is Fitzgerald’s bildungsroman (a youth coming of age) novel. In fact many of the details of Amory’s life very closely mirror that of the author. This is a classic trapping of many an author’s first novel, writing too much about his own life. Aspiring writers are told “write what you know,” not to “write you.” It’s not that this can’t work, and probably for better authors it is possible that it can. Sadly though, Fitzgerald’s novel feels very dated. The issues of the generation growing up in the Jazz Age and through World War I just don’t really connect to the present—or Fitzgerald fails in connecting those issues to timeless struggles for a future reader. This is what often happens when you’re writing about yourself.

In short the book has a fragmented plot, too many disconnected writing devices scattered throughout (including one chapter inexplicably written like a play script), banal and outdated philosophical musings, several scattered and non-engaging romances, and lots of pretentious upper-class socialite struggles. To be fair though, a couple of redeeming qualities: several quality characters (Monsignor Darcy, Alec Connage (I found the female characters completely uninspiring)), and a few moments of humor. They are not nearly enough to rescue the book though, and it’s two hundred pages are better saved for a more worthy classic.

About Luke

Luke learned to read at the age of two, whereupon he decided, like much of the male population, that it was a chore to be done only when absolutely necessary. Then suddenly at age nineteen, he discovered good books—he has been reading voraciously ever since, earning multiple literature and writing degrees. At any given moment you'll find him reading at least one book, smoking a cigar, up fifty feet in a tree he free-climbed.

Currently Reading:
Collected Stories by Alexander Pushkin
-Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
The Mystery of Being by Gabriel Marcel

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