This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know the title of this book. This Side of Paradise, From Here to Eternity, The Grapes of Wrath are all titles that sounded romantic to my kid-mind as far back as I can remember. I knew some day I’d read these books for their titles alone. My middle-aged brain knows that a title does not always make the book, but sometimes it does.

Anyway, I read This Side of Paradise because its on my list for The Classics Club. It was my Spin book. I was hoping the number would land on a Fitzgerald novel, as I included two on my spin list, and it did!

Off to the library I went. I visited three libraries before I found it on shelf. That Gatsby movie was causing a run on Fitzgerald novels–only his short story collections were left on shelf.  (We in the Chicagoland area are spoiled by the hundreds of quality libraries that dot our flat landscape.)

I began reading the book with high hopes.

It started out okay, but soon devolved into a chore. If you haven’t read the book, it’s a first person narrative written from the perspective of a young man with an unconventional upbringing who ends up attending Princeton during WWI. It is a bit autobiographical and launched Fitzgerald’s career.

And it should have been up my alley as I love this time period, but I didn’t care about any of the characters, which is a deal breaker for me. I’m not saying I have to like the characters in a book, but I do have to care about at least one of them, one way or the other (like I hated–hated–Marie Sandoz’s Old Jules). Yet I read on.

I read the first half of the novel with English-major-like attention.

Then came Barbara Pym Reading Week, a great excuse to put Fitz back on the shelf for a bit. But that was only a week.

When I came back to the second half of Paradise I simply did not have the patience for it. I read it, but my mind wandered and I let it. I turned pages without anything sticking.

I’d fail a pop quiz, but will tick this one off as read.

I also did not like The Great Gatsby when I first read it about ten years ago. I’d never read any Fitzgerald at that point and went around for years saying Gatsby was the most over-rated American novel of all time. I re-read Gatsby last year and loved it . . . and then went around eating crow, apologizing to people for my earlier ignorance and arrogance.

Will the same thing happen with Paradise? Will I re-read it in a few years and love it? Maybe. The bookish life is crazy and unpredictable, after all.

Have you read? What did you think?

This Side of Paradise
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scribners 1920
Source: library copy
Rate: one star, did not like it.


  1. I own this, I've read this, and I don't remember a thing about it :/ I'll need to make it a priority to reread it at some point!

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