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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 1999
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 5 April 2012
To fall in love with Fitzgerald at first sight start with The Great Gatsby; to fall slowly by degrees start with The Beautiful and Damned, then Tender is the Night; and if you've false-started here with This Side of Paradise, then you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. The novel, written as it was when Fitzgerald "didn't know how to plan or write a novel" is not representative of his brilliance. 5 years later Fitzgerald himself bemoaned its literary borrowings, "faked references and intellectual reactions" whilst praising its "enormous emotion". It is difficult for readers today to touch much except the novel's emotional life but to 1920s America it was a book of its time, one of the first to tap into the Jazz Age's jugular and spill the blood of a generation "grown up to find all gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken...."

Amory Blaine is our protagonist, young, handsome, male, convinced of his own potential for greatness and beset by the concomitant doubts of trying to realise this. It's this formula that we can all relate to (Princeton graduates and male readers in particular perhaps) of youth's vacillations between splendour and debacle; the freshness of first love; the negotiation of social status; the desperation to "be" someone. Blaine is romantic, nostalgic and contemptuous as he makes his way through prep-school, Princeton and out the other side to stand beneath a "crystalline, radiant sky" and utter the novel's famous last lines.

The structure of the novel fights against itself; Bruccoli (Some Sort of Epic Grandeur) notes in the introduction its mishmash being due to the fact that it is a cobbling together of previously written dramas, poetry and shorts from Fitzgerald's published writings at Princeton. It's difficult not to feel this distraction, especially if you have first read and savoured the sublime precision of Gatsby. Nevertheless, Paradise is liberally sprinkled with gorgeous prose: merciless in its description of character and beautiful in that of place. It is the prose, and the truths of youth it renders in all their larger-than-life self-indulgence, that are the beating heart of this novel today.

For those of us who believe Fitzgerald to be one of the finest American writers, Paradise is a tantalising stepping-stone on the way to Gatsby and is worthy of being read on the strength of that alone. There's a pleasure to be had from its rawness and lack of sophistication when compared with his more accomplished works; moreover, Amory Blaine is a figure to be remembered despite the inauspicious surroundings of his conception (or perhaps because of them). In Blaine and Paradise we have the dreams of the young Fitzgerald--he of the Princeton boast of becoming "one of the greatest writers that ever lived"--in all their unkempt glory.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2012
As a growing Fitzgerald fan, this is the last of his work I have got around to reading and although I wouldn't say I had left the best till last, I was far more impressed than I expected. This was a great book and I will definitely be reading it again and again throughout my life. I decided on this particular version after being impressed with the Dead Dodo Kindle release of The Beautiful and Damned, and again, I couldn't fault the formatting, menus, etc. I recommend.
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on 12 July 2014
This isn’t just another Bildungsroman: its opening sections make it almost the first example of the teenage novel, with classic features now found in YA: the 13-year-old kiss, the petting party (it’s even called that here), the categorising of your peers into types, the surface cynicism vying with long intense discussions, the notion of ‘the pose’, the desire to make a mark. It continues into the intense social competitiveness of university (Princeton), and then out into the disappointment and further struggle of the real world, where the successes of college are suddenly valueless.

Amory Blaine (amorous? amoral?), its hero, is well-off and very good-looking. He has a loving but haphazard mum; a distant dad; a friendship with an elderly priest who tries vainly to guide him towards Catholicism; and friends and girlfriends of varying sorts, each of who teaches him something else about himself. At the end, poor and single again, there’s a sense that he’s found a purpose in political commitment – but is this going to be yet another pose?

I thought it was a bit uneven: the kids’ attempts at smart talk go on a bit too long, when we’ve already got the point about their callowness. On the other hand, there are some amazing and powerful insights about youth. The style switches about: Amory’s and his friends’ student poems appear in full and whole sections are written like a play. But there’s something nevertheless winning and charming about the book, despite its faults; just like its protagonist.
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on 16 January 2012
Centered on the successive loves and relationships of Amory Blaine, this book - Like adolescence itself - is charming, exciting, unlikely, sexual, intelligent, disjointed, frustrating and inconclusive. But it's a great read.

I don't understand why this book isn't on every teenager's reading list in the way that `The Lost Estate' or `The Magus' seem to be. It's an almost perfect reproduction of what it is like to be an intelligent and activated teenager getting through school and university into the world at large. It's not universal, it deals with that section of society that is engaged with ideas first and emotions second but it is very penetrating.

Amory Blaine is a beautiful boy with high opinions of himself. He moves, though success at sport, from being a social outsider to the centre of a dazzling set at Princeton. His story is told through the relationships he has with five women - Beatrice, Isabel, Clara, Rosalind and Eleanor each of whom represent a different phase of his development and highlight a different part of his character. His mother, his college friends, his mentor Monsignor Darcy and the books he reads are the other elements that go to build Blaine's character over the course of the novel.

There is not a lot of plot, although there are births marriages and deaths, they don't really signify much as the driver of the book is Blaine's own search for himself. This is the key to it's success since it echoes the angst, self doubt, half baked ideas, sexual awakening, overconfidence, energy and braggadocio typical of interesting male teenagers. Blaine is well worth spending time with but it's hard to know what he is for - he doesn't know himself - he could be exceptional, or could be a bum and the reader still doesn't know at the end of the novel.

The writing style is all over the place, sometimes Blaine narrates, sometimes a god narrator (but one who doesn't know too much about what is going on). The narrative switches between dialogue and text, poetry, one act plays, rolling thoughts, letters, maxims and reflections. The reality behind this is that Fitzgerald wrote the book based on a series of notes made at different times about different subjects and it shows - sometimes he just lists books that he has has read. But the effect is very much to recreate the crazy world of a teenager - trying out different attitudes and ideas, discarding those that don't fit and moving on to something new. Some of the poetry is a bit dodgy but much of the prose is breathtaking - ideas tumble across the page and the language is like honey. It's worth the cover price just to enjoy some of the highly intelligent set piece phrases and scenes that Fitzgerald works through.

This was Fitzgerald's most successful book commercially but least successful critically and I can absolutely see that. This novel captures an energy and spirit in a fresh and interesting way. It's by no means as polished and perfect as his later works but no worse for that. If you are under 23 (or think you are) then buy it.
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on 6 January 2012
"This Side of Paradise" is Fitzgerald's first novel and is my all time favourite. It tells the story of a young man who has a lot of money, enough charm so as to have confidence in himself, the peace of mind of the wealthy, the aristocratic selfishness. Amory Blaine is a very impressive character and that is what I love about the book. Rarely have I read a book where the author succeeded in making so real a creature out of words. The main character really is alive in my mind. F. Scott Fitzgerald is a fine master, he knows well how people's imagination works, and somehow knows the way to make us imagine things perfectly and to have the feeling we live in times that passed and we never knew. I read the book and remained with the feeling I know the character Amory Blaine well and this familiarity made it my favourite book out of F. Scott Fitzgerald's work. It is not a pretty book to say so, or a nice great man this Amory, but the world he lives in is depicted so as to become very real. I really love Fitzgerald for one other thing: his writing is very sincere or at least gives that impression. The author doesn't hesitate to be ironical about himself and also leaves the impression he knows and understands the people and the American society after the first world war, because he is part of it and he is just like it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2007
I read this as a young 20 something in the 80's and was captured by it. Quite brilliant whatever others have said. It gives you a sense of 'being', of place, and what it is / was to be young. It centres you and lifts your spirit so much that you feel carried by the character. One to read again and again to lift you. Makes you feel as invincible and unique as Amory himself. Truly wonderful and of course recommended.
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on 29 August 2015
The book that started it all... the first salvo of the Jazz Age and the "It Couple" that embodied the personification of "The Roaring Twenties": Scott and Zelda! Read the first best-seller on the disaffected youth later tagged "The Lost Generation" as they struggle with their lives and loves and The Great War going on "over there". A perfect portrait of a moment in time, and at the same time, timeless, universal, and ever thus.
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on 31 May 2015
Having enjoyed The great Gatsby, Tender is the Night and The last Tycoon I was very disappointed by this book. I found the character of Amory extremely boring and superficial. One who could only speak in cliches and quotations and who had not one original thought. The small part about Eleanor who sent her horse over a cliff I found definitely disgusting. In short: a book soon to be forgotten!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 1999
As a HS sophomore I read this book for the first time, and I was enthralled with Amory's journey to find himself. The closing lines of the novel remain some of my favorite of anything I've read. Everytime I re-read this book, I am captured by the search for self and prompted to rethink my own self-concepts. Some criticize the book for its unrefined style, but the variance in techniques used is one of my favorite parts of the novel. I love Fitzgerald most for his way with words, and the use of both poetry and script along with prose truly showcase his brilliance. A wonderful read!
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