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137 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The more things change...
After 80 years, what can be said about Fitzgerald's first novel that hasn't already been said? The first thing that struck me on reading this was the timelessness of its subject matter, no matter how dated the setting is. The Ivy League of Fitzgerald's indifferent hero, Amory Blaine, is a thing of the past, with only the faintest reminders of its aura of American...
Published on October 15, 2002 by David A. Bede

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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The first display of Fitzgerald's talent
F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels are a one trick pony in the sense that he writes about the same time period (the 1920's), the same kind of people (rich or successful Americans) and protagonists who suffer the same fate (men whose ultimate failures are the result of their own shortcomings and the influence of women). His works are also highly autobiographical. Thus to read...
Published on March 10, 2008 by John Martin


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137 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The more things change..., October 15, 2002
This review is from: This Side Of Paradise (Paperback)
After 80 years, what can be said about Fitzgerald's first novel that hasn't already been said? The first thing that struck me on reading this was the timelessness of its subject matter, no matter how dated the setting is. The Ivy League of Fitzgerald's indifferent hero, Amory Blaine, is a thing of the past, with only the faintest reminders of its aura of American royalty remaining today. Reading about Amory's days at Princeton is a bit like looking at the ancient photographs of 19th century football teams that every university seems to have on display in some corner of the campus, with the added twist that most of those long-ago jocks were presumably the sons of bankers and senators. And yet, Fitzgerald's depiction of a whirlwind of exhilaration, alienation, eagerness for the future and a sense that it should all be more meaningful is still all too recognizable to those of us who are just a few years out of college. So like all the best fiction, the story works both on a historical and a contemporary level.
Amory isn't the most sympathetic of protagonists. Coming from a non-aristocratic but quite cushy background, he's all you would expect from a Fitzgerald hero: full of himself, indifferent to the less fortunate, somewhat lazy, and at once condescending to and inept with women. But this is a story of young adulthood in the last gasps of the pre-World War I upper-crust, and Amory is the perfect vehicle for illustrating the youth of that time and place. Although the relative lack of details provided about Amory's experience in the war is odd, it adds to his Everyman quality for the generations since his, all of which have had their own reasons for a bleak outlook at some point even if few could match the sheer trauma of 1917-18. The one real flaw in the story is an inconsistent, and often unconvincing, quality when it comes to how and why Amory falls for the several women he endures romantic misadventures with. For all the heartbreak he endures, the reader is often left wondering where his attraction stemmed from in the first place - an odd shortcoming considering how good Fitzgerald was at illustrating that issue in later works. But the romantic episodes that do work are vivid enough to forgive the weaker ones. Also, as usual, Fitzgerald's narrative style is somewhat purple; but he's so good at it that it usually doesn't strike the reader as a problem.
Bleak as it may be, this is a great book for anyone who has survived young adulthood and remembers it honestly. Just try not to laugh or cringe next time somebody wants to talk about "the good old days."
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The first display of Fitzgerald's talent, March 10, 2008
By 
John Martin (Beijing, China) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: This Side Of Paradise (Paperback)
F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels are a one trick pony in the sense that he writes about the same time period (the 1920's), the same kind of people (rich or successful Americans) and protagonists who suffer the same fate (men whose ultimate failures are the result of their own shortcomings and the influence of women). His works are also highly autobiographical. Thus to read Fitzgerald with understanding one should start at the beginning (This Side of Paradise), move to the full bloom of his talent (The Great Gatsby) and culminate at the end (Tender is the Night). It would help to read a good biography along the way. The other option is to just read Gatsby which is one of the finest American novels ever written.

This Side of Paradise is his first novel and here we see both the promise of the character, Amory Blaine, and the author. On the very first page of the novel Fitzgerald displays his talent for words in his description of Amory's mother: "All in all Beatrice O'Hara absorbed the sort of education that will be quite impossible ever again; a tutelage measured by the number of things and people one could be contemptuous of and charming about; a culture rich in all the arts and traditions barren of all ideas in the last of those days when the great gardener clipped the inferior roses to produce one perfect bud." This lengthy sentence, despite its seeming awkwardness, tells us all we need to know about Beatrice and suggests that the son will share the same qualities. Other examples of Fitzgerald's facility with words follow. On page 45 he describes Isabelle thusly: "She paused at the top of the staircase. The sensations attributed to divers on springboards, leading ladies on opening nights, and lumpy, husky young men on the day of the Big Game, crowded through her. She should have descended to a burst of drums or a discordant blend of themes from `Thais' and `Carmen.' She had never been so curious about her appearance, she had never been so satisfied with it. She has been sixteen years old for six months." And on page 47 is Isabelle's description of Amory: "she had expected him to be dark and of garter-advertisement slenderness." Only Fitzgerald could come up with such vivid and evocative descriptions.

One fault of the book is that it is too episodic without clear transitions. First Amory is a child, then a student at Princeton, then a soldier (although we really do not see this part of this life and it seems to have not affected him), then a lover of Rosalind, then at loose ends, then has a relationship with Eleanor, then the book ends with Amory alone in the world and spouting socialist maxims. It is hard to picture this individual, who for 200 pages has been totally absorbed with himself, suddenly developing a social conscience!

Another problem I have is that Fitzgerald tries too hard to show his education. The book is full of poetry and literary references. It is written much as a college student would write a paper to try to impress the professor and thus get a high grade, rather than in a manner that is appropriate to the telling of a story. Fitzgerald is, of course, at this point in his life not far removed from Princeton and perhaps is still writing as a college student.

In the end, then, we should read This Side of Paradise for the beauty of the language and not be overly concerned with the story line and characters.
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63 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book for the young, or young at heart, June 5, 2004
By 
Candace Scott (Lake Arrowhead, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
This was one of my favorite books when I was 15 years old. I read it several times and carried it with me around the dreary halls of the oppresive, boring land called High School. Even as a kid I sensed Fitzgerald's amazing writing gift: his effortless way of painting a visual picture in the mind of the reader. He was always extremely funny, off-beat and his charactizations are usually on the mark. Though Amory Blaine's psyche wanders a trifle after the first hundred pages, it's impossible not to gravitate towards him, the things he says and the stunts he pulls.
After 25 years I picked up the book again recently. Dusting off my old copy, I re-read the pages that had so captivated me as a teenager. Time dulls many things and people change. But I still love the book and think it's a brilliant first novel. Though it's sappy in spots and it definitely lags at the end, Fitzgerald still had a beautiful ability to harness the emotions of the reader into a world now vanished. It's not his most complete or mature work by a wide margin, but it matters not. This is still a great book, especially for young people or those still a kid at heart.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unperfected Prose... A Perfect Story, June 29, 1999
This review is from: This Side Of Paradise (Paperback)
Reading some of these reviews has proven to be depressing - in the sense that everyone is focusing on the youthful 'flaws' of this novel. Perhaps it is not comparable in brilliance to Gatsby - but kids-Fitzgerald was a rarest of species-he was a literary genius and Gatsby was his masterpiece! 'This Side'...may have been his first attempt out but never the less a marvelous portrait of being young in the 20th Century. It's shameful that people constantly compare this story to Gatsby, his Sistine Chapel of novels. No, this is simply a terrific story - and it truly is. Amory Blaine is an exceedinlgy likeable protagonist(something all the 'young hip'writers of today seem to forget to have), his images are portraits and his prose are just beginning to blossom. Indeed, this a youthfully 'flawed' novel by a young genius - which still equals an excellent work of fiction. - Oh, and if one reads this book and does not like Amory Blaine, that someone either forgot what it was to be young - or simply doesn't want to be reminded. Ciao.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars from the master of poetic prose, May 22, 2006
By 
Fitzgerald Fan (Troy, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
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As much as I would love to give F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel five stars, the fact that it is a mere shadow of "The Great Gatsby" (my all time favorite novel) holds me back.
It amazes me to think that he wrote this when he was only twenty-three years old, and yet the vanity and arrogance expressed by Amory Blaine and his generation is suggestive of youth and the ideas of invincibility.
Without doubt this is a smartly written, witty novel yet also highly indicative of how truth and experience are blindsided by youth, beauty, and the hauteur of the newly educated. Perhaps the best aspect of the novel, for me as a diehard Fitzgerald fan, is his signature of wonderfully poetic prose. There is something about the way he crafts a sentence that allows for every sense to be involved. You can not only hear and see what he says, but smell and touch it as well. Despite the intellectualism involved in his writings, it is his poetic honesty that speaks to me on a visceral level. He is simply a genius in this respect. In reading this work, one can only consider "The Great Gatsby" as a natural progression of the privileged wealth and leisure demonstrated here. And on another note, there is also a great deal of recognizable autobiography going on in the text which adds to the authenticity of the story.
And lastly, this is the book that "sealed" the marriage between F. Scott and Zelda...perhaps the most tragically romantic marriage to date, at least in my opinion.
And with this, I will leave you with a quote from the book:

"While the rain drizzled on, Amory looked futiley back at the stream of his life, all its glittering and dirty shallows. To begin with, he was still afraid--not physically afraid anymore, but afraid of people and prejudice and misery and monotony. Yet deep in his bitter heart he wondered if he was after all worse than this man or the next. He knew that he could sophisticate himself finally into saying that his own weakness was just the result of circumstances and environment; that often when he raged at himself as an egotist something would whisper ingratiatingly--'No. Genius!'"
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fitzgerald comes of age, May 17, 2001
By 
"admiral_chris" (Virginia's beautiful countryside) - See all my reviews
This review is from: This Side Of Paradise (Paperback)
An interesting thing about This Side of Paradise is how strongly autobiographical it is. Like Fitzgerald, the protagonist, Amory Blaine, goes to Princeton; like Fitzgerald he forms a strong friendship with a prominent intellectual in the Catholic church; like Fitzgerald he struggles through various romances; like Fitzgerald he searches in vain for meaning, for his own path intellectually.
In a sense, this is an autobiography of Fitzgerald's own intellectual awakening, and interwoven into the tale is a sort of reading list of literature that Fitzgerald found meaningful at various stages of life, such as Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Whitman's Leaves of Grass. It's interesting to trace his development by looking sequentially at the literature he got into, what he found most interesting and most relevant.
This is the story of an intellectual struggle, a search for meaning, and as such it can be rather depressing at times; it's very relevant, however, to our own times. The issues Amory Blaine grapples with -- his own desire to be powerful, his struggle to find who he is intellectually, the trials of maintaining intellectual and artistic integrity in the era of the mass media -- are ones that we still face today. For today's youth struggling to figure things out, the tale of Amory Blaine, lurching in fits and starts down his own path, is relevant; the general emotions and impressions he encounters, combined with the specific works that become instrumental in his development, make this a unique and interesting novel. It was Fitzgerald's first novel and does have its shortcomings -- a strange structure, sometimes incredibly artificial dialogue, and a style that hadn't yet matured into the graceful prose Fitzgerald would exhibit in The Great Gatsby. Yet as a story of a young man's intellectual awakening, it has great relevance even now, at the start of the 21st century.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ohhh, this book rocked on!, August 16, 2000
By A Customer
Okay, so I didn't even want to read it, but I picked Fitzgerald for my major paper at the end of my AP lit class, and Tender is the Night was checked out of the library. So I picked this as a substitute, I read it really fast, and I tried to analyze while I was reading. I didn't get it until I stopped trying to figure it out. Amory is such a great character, a work of genius in my mind. Fitgerald has such a talent for wrapping his books up in one last line, something that summarizes the entire novel and reveals to the reader the true purpose of the story. Amory's last line, "I know myself, but that is all" is perfect for a story about a man's growth and maturing in every way. Amory Blaine, I love you even if you are an egotist. I would recommend this book to anyone with a love for literature or just a love for a good story. It is a book that can be seen on a million different levels, one is never too uneducated or too intelligent for it, I believe that it can speak to anyone and everyone.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Coming of Age" Novel Perfected, and then some..., December 18, 2000
This review is from: This Side Of Paradise (Paperback)
This is a brilliant work that many categorize in the "male coming of age" genre. It is correctly placed there and is on par with, if not better than, "Great Expectations." This novel shows the zest of a young writer already in greatness on his way to perfection. The radical structure of this novel shows the creativity and non-conformity that Fitzgerald set as the mode for the modern day contemporary novel. His incorporation of poetry, music, and, and then sudden shift to play-writing, in his prose, to get his point across are brilliant in his execution of "showing rather than telling."
Amory (wordplay on amorous) is looking for truth and sense in his life. He seeks it in intellectual pursuits, riotous living, and love. Love is what makes him most vulnerable.
His general liking for the arts rather than the sciences mirror the ambitions of so many young males, males who would be reading this novel. He can't dwell in what is known or scientifically documented, his heart lies in the arts and history: the former a place an outlet to seek truth and the latter a point of reference by which he categorizes himself. He believes love to be something tangible like the music he hears, the poetry he reads and writes, but love is chaos. He makes lists to categorize and make sense of elements of the social world around him, but life (especially in the shift from adolesence to young-adulthood) and people are so incongruent that none of it is able to be categorized. The use of the shift to play-writing is not used gratuitously. Amory believes that life and love fall into place once one is done with school and sets out for the world. He is acting/living out a love story in the real world, but nothing in life is structured like the story line to a dramatic romance.
Fitzgerald's narrative is a lyrical, yet chaotic whirlwind, it perfectly coincides with the life of a person coming into adulthood during a time of drastic social change and the disillusionment from the atrocities of The Great War.
The last quarter of the novel shows the roots of what would grow to Fitzgerald's literary perfection. Reading the ending to this book keeps the reader in a state of awe.
There is a beautiful array of one-liners gracing the pages during Amory's conversation with the Goggled Man and his partner. Everyone I discuss this novel with has a favorite line or two from this section. The words that have been turning over in my mind ever since the first time I read this novel are:
"'I'm restless. My whole generation is restless. I'm sick of a system where the richest man gets the most beautiful girl if he wants her, where the artist without an income has to sell his talents to a button manufacturer.'"
The last line of the book is a lesson in itself. Fitzgerald entertains the reader from the soft and subtle beginning, to the chaotic yet, settling end:
"I know myself," he cried, "but that is all."
After all the people he had come in contact with during his journey for truth and love, and all the low and high points that Amory has had, he feels his efforts were worthwhile, but doesn't know why.
Mapping life is a futile effort. Mapping and knowing yourself is an amazing feat in and of itself that few achieve. And knowing yourself is "all," everything that you would ever need to know in life...
This novel is a must read for all young men. ENTER THE LABYRINTH.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comforting, March 12, 2008
By 
John Cullom (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: This Side Of Paradise (Paperback)
It's an enormous comfort to find that the 24 year old Fitzgerald did not produce a perfect novel. It's not as comforting to know that the 29 year old Fitzgerald did. Ah well, the Beatles were done being the Beatles before they were 30.

This book is no pleasure to read unless you're interested in seeing FSF develop, and this is his start. This is an interesting lens on Gatsby and reveals some of the more subtle techniques by being used crudely here. The primary similarity is the use of satire in the real old Satyricon sense. In both novels, there's a devoted attempt to meticulously record his surrounding in order to hold their trappings up to ridicule.

The problem with This Side of Paradise is that it's a bildungsroman and a fairly autobiographical one at that. The self-criticism and self-knowledge that is necessary to declare one's own quest for adulthood as absurd isn't available to one immediately upon entering it (See Stephen in Ulysses for a successful version - decades older). That's sort of the problem with the whole work. F keeps falling in and out of admiration for Amory, and consequently, Amory is never a reliable lens on his world. It's kind of a wreck.

This book made Maxwell Perkins's career at Scribner, and so TSOP could be said to have been crucial to the development of Hemingway, Wolfe, et al. What made Perkins think that this was so revolutionary? Perhaps some was scandalous - She's been kissed many times! - it's not so shocking now. Perhaps it showed a world not seen before, St. Paul's, Princeton. Perhaps he was the first voice of a generation. Maybe Perkins just had an unbelievable eye for talent. The evidence is there if you look hard enough. It's up to the duly warned potential reader to decide whether they want to.

However, as an inspiration to young writers out there. Get going. Write a bad book. Write another bad book. Then write a great one.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic--justifiably!, July 10, 1999
By A Customer
When I first picked up "This Side of Paradise" I was moved at once to put it back down. A casual thumbing through the pages, though, held out the promise of a surprisingly witty author. (After all, good readers should approach with extreme caution that pantheon of flatulent phonies extolled by schoolmarms!) But, the "Bored of Education," aside, I allowed my interest to master my natural prejudice and read a few more lines. "Hm. Actually intelligent," I thought. "Sardonic!" Indeed! With overtones of Mencken's Nietzschean irony and Oscar Wilde's talent for pithy phrase-making, the young Fitzgerald produced a remarkable novel, by anyone's standards. One of the ten best of the 20th century, in my opinion--right up there with "Lolita," "Steppenwolf," and "The Tin Drum"! . . . . Certainly, readers of limited vocabularies (or else readers with ample vocabularies, but no playfulness) should not attempt this book. Its free-flowing structure is reminiscent of that used by Melville in "Moby Dick," which itself drew heavy criticism by people who wanted craftsman when they had before them Artists! So, for anyone to see in such virtuosical creativity the "follies of Youth" just because it refuses to conform to the old, boring and hackneyed formula of a linear novel, betrays a lack of understanding on the part of the blathering critic. "This Side of Paradise" is a great book--not because we were told it is; but (by some accident, some mistake, some blessing!) it really and truly is!
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This Side of Paradise (Oxford World's Classics)
This Side of Paradise (Oxford World's Classics) by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Paperback - December 20, 2009)
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