I think if this is the route of F. Scott Fitzgerald I will become less of a fan over time, though I will say this is his debut novel, so it’s possible to cut some slack. Even with The Great Gatsby though everything seem to over thought out, and This Side of Paradise is even more so done that way. This leaves room for some great scenes and dialogue but otherwise nothing flows very naturally in the book. Also, Amory is very self involved and not too likable of a guy.
Summary: This Side of Paradise is a sort of semi-autobiographical account of Fitzgerald’s own life conveyed through Amory Blaine. He starts out life as a prep school boy making friends that would last a very long time there. When growing old of the routine there though he sets off to make his own sort of way with girls and money. Amory is always hopeful he will pen a novel that will gain him fame, but many distractions come his way. He falls for the charming Rosalind, and gets swept up in a war before he can establish his own.
Characters: I think even if I was living in the 20’s and read this it would still be hard to relate to because they all seem like upper class snobby people even if they aren’t rich. Amory isn’t always rich throughout the book, but there is something about his character that is just annoying. If this is how Fitzgerald wants himself to be personified in a book then I don’t see how you could look him anymore considering fame probably went to his head. There are also the many women he comes to fall for like Eleanor, Mara, and the biggest love of all for him, Rosalind. I guess it’s easy to see why they might have found an appeal since the guy seemed to be charming, but he just didn’t seem to be very concerned with others.
Writing: The writing has some good witty lines and it has some very romantic scenes that Fitzgerald is able to portray. The novel though gets bogged down in what is a lot of description sometimes and syntax that is heavily worded. Also, the philosophical pondering didn’t reel me in, or give me any better connection with the characters. If there is anything that is edgy about the book it is all the underlining sexual events happening between the characters. I like how books from this time were never too in your face though, but it is open enough for anyone with an understanding of slang terms to know what was happening.
Plot: I think the plot is well done in that it captures Amory over a length of time and how certain events affect him. Like when he changes school, has his first love, enters the war, and comes back home and sees the affect of age and time. It does convey Amory turning from boy to man very well, even if he isn’t a particularly likable guy. It also seems to be a theme of Fitzgerald to have women marrying other man despite their love for the lead men in the novel. It’s as if the security lies somewhere else instead of with the lead male character.
This Side of Paradise has some bits that are interesting to read like the romantic scene between Amory and Rosalind when trying to share a kiss with her, but the jumbled bits of some of the novel detract from the flow and seem to have put too much focus on things that seem a little unimportant. I could see this being a strong debut novel for a classic writer though.
Rating 6 of 10.