A story of self-discovery and major characterisation, This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a rollercoaster ride of emotions written in beautiful, poetic language. It follows the protagonist, Amory Blaine, who is born into a wealthy family and goes through his life experiencing how unpredictable it really is. It’s not your average story. It almost seems like a character profile from beginning to end, where we learn about one person and how they become who they turn out to be, which I suppose we could say for a lot of creative works. However, this one is a little more prominent in that regards.
I’ll be honest, this isn’t a book you pick up and expect obvious twists, turns, rises and falls. If you do expect that then you might be a little disappointed. This book has its climax by evoking emotion and thought by delivering deep philosophy, intense heartbreak and interesting advice that we can all follow. Although it didn’t have the action or intense scenes as other books I have read recently, I was still drawn into the story by the beautiful and artistic words that painted such extraordinary images in my mind and had me thinking of how much I related to the story of Amory Blaine.
To provide a brief summary without giving too much away (of course, I will try to avoid spoilers but no promises), Amory is born into a wealthy family and is raised by his very influential mother. She’s eccentric, interesting and is a major factor in his overall personality. However, as it is stated on the very first page of book, Amory did inherit his father’s ‘tendency to waver at crucial moments’. In just a few words, it really encapsulates a lot of what happens and how Amory ends up where he does.
There are plenty of romantic escapades, heartbreaks and even a trip to war that are dotted within this story. There are drunk parties, mistakes and even deadly accidents with friends. It all winds up to Amory suddenly having to make some adult decisions and try to clean up a mess that he didn’t make.
That’s a very shortened summary where I try and not ruin the story for you. I could provide some further insight into the storyline, but I think it is so beautifully crafted that each moment is really quite pivotal for other moments in the story. If you ignore the lack of action and the sudden change in format and structure from time to time, then I think you will enjoy this story!
Nonetheless, I want to spend some time in this review going over some excerpts that really hit me hard and made me think about life and people in a very different light. As I mentioned before, there is a lot of philosophy in this story, and paired with Amory’s interest to literature and poetry, it is very thought-provoking for writers and poets alike!
I’ll provide some context to the first excerpt I want to share, but the rest I will list underneath for you all to interpret in your own way. The first is all about the distinction between personality and personages, and why we act the way we do or how we perceive ourselves. I’ll let you interpret it on your own now!
‘A personality is what you thought you were … Personality is a physical matter almost entirely; it lowers the people it acts on—I’ve seen it vanish in a long sickness. But while a personality is active, it overrides “the next thing”. Now a personage, on the other hand, gathers. He is never thought of a part from what he’s done. He’s a bar on which a thousand things have been hung—glittering things sometimes, as ours are; but he uses those things with a cold mentality back of them.’ – Page 122-123, Monsignor Darcy
‘… at fifteen you had the radiance of early morning, at twenty you will begin to have the melancholy brilliance of the moon, and when you are my age you will give out, as I do, the genial golden warmth of 4pm.’ – Page 124, Monsignor Darcy
‘… it’s the fear that what you begin you can’t stop…’ – Page 124, Monsignor Darcy
‘Any person with any imagination is bound to be afraid.’ – Page 143, Burne Holiday
‘You’re a slave, a bound helpless slave to one thing in the world, your imagination.’ – Page 154, Clara Page
I hope you notice just how wonderful and beautiful this book and story is by these excerpts! I recommend this to anyone who loves reading a classic and doesn’t mind the challenge of reading through the different style of writing that classics tend to offer.
Have you read This Side of Paradise? Let me know what you think in the comments or on social media!
That’s it from me. Remember to ignite the story and I’ll see you again soon!
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.