By: F. Scott Fitzgerald
This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s romantic and witty first novel, was written when the author was only twenty-three years old. This semi-autobiographical story of the handsome, indulged, and idealistic Princeton student Amory Blaine received critical raves and catapulted Fitzgerald to instant fame.
Completion: I finished it. I suppose that’s a good thing? I did read this for college so that helped me get through it.
Writing/Style: You can definitely tell this is Fitzgerald’s debut. You get a few glimmers of the gorgeous imagery and style Fitzgerald is known for, but it’s not there nearly enough to counteract the story’s shortfalls.
Characters: Tired of all those angsty YA heroines? Meet Amory Blaine. He’ll make you want those YA heroines back as he goes through his privileged white boy life. The other characters aren’t anything to write home about either.
Plot/Pacing: What plot? What pacing? But, seriously, we follow Amory through a large chunk of his life from childhood to post-college, and the pace meanders through as Amory slowly discovers himself. If Amory was more likable, this might not of been as much of a negative, but as it is, the slow pacing makes the book even more of a struggle to finish.
World-building/Atmosphere: When you are able to look over Amory’s big egotistic head, you can really see what it was like in the 1920’s. In particular, I wish college today was more like it was in Fitzgerald’s time where you went to class but didn’t worry about tests or homework and just went on wild adventures. Well, like college back then but minus the racism and sexism, of course.
Sub-genres (Romance, Mystery, Humor, etc.): No mystery, for sure. If there was humor, I didn’t catch it. As far as romance goes, Amory is in several romantic relationships, but I never felt emotionally invested in any of the relationships. This is probably because the relationship he shared with the “love of his life” was a very unhealthy, narcissistic relationship for the both of them. It’s very melodramatic, and it technically fits what the story is going for, but it does not do anything to make Amory more likable.
FINAL VERDICT: If you are a huge fan of Fitzgerald’s, then you’ll probably want to check this book out. Or rather, you probably already have. From a certain angle, it is interesting to see how Fitzgerald progressed in his writing and to see bits of his own life mixed in the fiction. However, for most of you, if I were to recommend a Fitzgerald work, this one would not be it. I would recommend The Great Gatsby. There’s just more of everything that Fitzgerald is known for in The Great Gatsby because by the time he wrote it Fitzgerald had figured out his own writing and polished his ideas.