This Side of Paradise

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Published in 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, became the novel that defined an era and launched his literary career. This is the story of Amory Blaine, "romantic egotist," and his journey from prep school to Princeton to the First World War. This dazzling chronicle of youth and the Jazz Age remains bitingly relevant decades later.

The story of Amory Blaine's adolescence and undergraduate days at Princeton, This Side of Paradise captures...

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This Side of Paradise

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Overview

Published in 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, became the novel that defined an era and launched his literary career. This is the story of Amory Blaine, "romantic egotist," and his journey from prep school to Princeton to the First World War. This dazzling chronicle of youth and the Jazz Age remains bitingly relevant decades later.

The story of Amory Blaine's adolescence and undergraduate days at Princeton, This Side of Paradise captures the essence of an American generation struggling to define itself in the aftermath of World War I and the destruction of "the old order."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fitzgerald's first novel, about a coterie of Princeton socialites, appears in a 75th anniversary edition. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Chicago Tribune Bears the impress of genius...splendid and fascinating.
From Barnes & Noble
This story of a privileged but aimless young man traces his formative years in the Midwest and at Princeton, then follows him as he is dumped unceremoniously into WWI and an everyday world at complete odds with his lofty aspirations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671535551
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 8/1/1995
  • Series: Enriched Classics Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1896, attended Princeton University, and published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920. That same year he married Zelda Sayre and the couple divided their time among New York, Paris, and the Riviera, becoming a part of the American expatriate circle that included Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and John Dos Passos. Fitzgerald was a major new literary voice, and his masterpieces include The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, and Tender Is the Night. He died of a heart attack in 1940 at the age of forty-four, while working on The Love of the Last Tycoon. For his sharp social insight and breathtaking lyricism, Fitzgerald is known as one of the most important American writers of the twentieth century.

Biography

The greatest writers often function in multifaceted ways, serving as both emblems of their age and crafters of timeless myth. F. Scott Fitzgerald surely fits this description. His work was an undeniable product of the so-called Jazz Age of the 1920s, yet it has a quality that spans time, reaching backward into gothic decadence and forward into the future of a rapidly decaying America. Through five novels, six short story collections, and one collection of autobiographical pieces, Fitzgerald chronicled a precise point in post-WWI America, yet his writing resonates just as boldly today as it did nearly a century ago.

Fitzgerald's work was chiefly driven by the disintegration of America following World War I. He believed the country to be sinking into a cynical, Godless, depraved morass. He was never reluctant to voice criticism of America's growing legions of idle rich. Recreating a heated confrontation with Ernest Hemingway in a short story called "The Rich Boy," Fitzgerald wrote, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different."

The preceding quote may sum Fitzgerald's philosophy more completely than any other, yet he also hypocritically embodied much of what he claimed to loathe. Fitzgerald spent money freely, threw lavish parties, drank beyond excess, and globe-trotted with his glamorous but deeply troubled wife Zelda. Still, in novel after novel, he sought to expose the great chasm that divided the haves from the have-nots and the hollowness of wealth. In This Side of Paradise (1920) he cynically follows opulent, handsome Amory Blaine as he bounces aimlessly from Princeton to the military to an uncertain, meaningless future. In The Beautiful and the Damned (1922) Fitzgerald paints a withering portrait of a seemingly idyllic marriage between a pair of socialites that crumbles in the face of Adam Patch's empty pursuit of profit and the fading beauty of his vane wife Gloria.

The richest example of Fitzgerald's disdain for the upper class arrived three years later. The Great Gatsby is an undoubted American classic, recounting naïve Nick Carraway's involvement with a coterie of affluent Long Islanders, and his ultimate rejection of them when their casual decadence leads only to internal back-stabbing and murder. Nick is fascinated by the mysterious Jay Gatsby, who had made the fatal mistake of stepping outside of his lower class status to pursue the lovely but self-centered Daisy Buchanan.

In The Great Gatsby, all elements of Fitzgerald's skills coalesced to create a narrative that is both highly readable and subtly complex. His prose is imbued with elegant lyricism and hard-hitting realism. "It is humor, irony, ribaldry, pathos and loveliness," Edwin C. Clark wrote of the book in the New York Times upon its 1925 publication. "A curious book, a mystical, glamorous story of today. It takes a deeper cut at life than hitherto has been essayed by Mr. Fitzgerald."

Gatsby is widely considered to be Fitzgerald's masterpiece and among the very greatest of all American literature. It is the ultimate summation of his contempt for the Jazz-Age with which he is so closely associated. Gatsby is also one of the clearest and saddest reflections of his own destructive relationship with Zelda, which would so greatly influence the mass of his work.

Fitzgerald only managed to complete one more novel -- Tender is the Night -- before his untimely death in 1940. An unfinished expose of the Hollywood studio system titled The Love of the Last Tycoon would be published a year later. Still The Great Gatsby remains his quintessential novel. It has been a fixture of essential reading lists for decades and continues to remain an influential work begging to be revisited. It has been produced for the big screen three times and was the subject of a movie for television starring Toby Stephens, Mira Sorvino, and Paul Rudd as recently as 2000. Never a mere product of a bygone age, F. Scott Fitzgerald's greatest work continues to evade time.

Good To Know

In 1937, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood to pursue a screenwriting career. He only completed a single screenplay Three Comrades during this time before being fired for his excessive drinking.

He held a very romantic view of Princeton before attending the university in 1913. However, his failure to maintain adequate grades or become the football star he dreamed to be lead to an early end to his studies in 1917.

Fitzgerald owes a his name to another famous American writer. He was named after Francis Scott Key, the composer of "The Star Spangled Banner," who also happened to be a distant relative of Fitzgerald's.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 24, 1896
    2. Place of Birth:
      St. Paul, Minnesota
    1. Date of Death:
      December 21, 1940

Read an Excerpt

Book One

The Romantic Egotist

Chapter 1

Amory, Son of Beatrice

Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while. His father, an ineffectual, inarticulate man with a taste for Byron and a habit of drowsing over the Encyclopaedia Britannica, grew wealthy at thirty through the death of two elder brothers, successful Chicago brokers, and in the first flush of feeling that the world was his, went to Bar Harbor and met Beatrice O'Hara. In consequence, Stephen Blaine handed down to posterity his height of just under six feet and his tendency to waver at crucial moments, these two abstractions appearing in his son Amory. For many years he hovered in the background of his family's life, an unassertive figure with a face half-obliterated by lifeless, silky hair, continually occupied in "taking care" of his wife, continually harassed by the idea that he didn't and couldn't understand her.

But Beatrice Blaine! There was a woman! Early pictures taken on her father's estate at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, or in Rome at the Sacred Heart Convent—an educational extravagance that in her youth was only for the daughters of the exceptionally wealthy—showed the exquisite delicacy of her features, the consummate art and simplicity of her clothes. A brilliant education she had her youth passed in renaissance glory, she was versed in the latest gossip of the Older Roman Families; known by name as a fabulously wealthy American girl to Cardinal Vitori and Queen Margherita and more subtle celebrities that one must have had some culture evento have heard of. She learned in England to prefer whiskey and soda to wine, and her small talk was broadened in two senses during a winter in Vienna. 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 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.

In her less important moments she returned to America, met Stephen Blaine and married himthis almost entirely because she was a little bit weary, a little bit sad. Her only child was carried through a tiresome season and brought into the world on a spring day in ninety-six.

When Amory was five he was already a delightful companion for her. He was an auburn-haired boy, with great, handsome eyes which he would grow up to in time, a facile imaginative mind and a taste for fancy dress. From his fourth to his tenth year he did the country with his mother in her father's private car, from Coronado, where his mother became so bored that she had a nervous breakdown in a fashionable hotel, down to Mexico City, where she took a mild, almost epidemic consumption. This trouble pleased her, and later she made use of it as an intrinsic part of her atmosphere especially after several astounding bracers.

So, while more or less fortunate little rich boys were defying governesses on the beach at Newport, or being spanked or tutored or read to from "Do and Dare," or "Frank on the Mississippi," Amory was biting acquiescent bell-boys in the Waldorf, outgrowing a natural repugnance to chamber music and symphonies, and deriving a highly specialized education from his mother.

"Amory."

"Yes, Beatrice." (Such a quaint name for his mother; she encouraged it.)"Dear, don't think of getting out of bed yet. I've always suspected that early rising in early life makes one nervous. Clothilde is having your breakfast brought up."

"All right."

"I am feeling very old today, Amory," she would sigh, her face a rare cameo of pathos, her voice exquisitely modulated, her hands as facile as Bernhardt's. "My nerves are on edge—on edge. We must leave this terrifying place tomorrow and go searching for sunshine."Amory's penetrating green eyes would look out through tangled hair at his mother. Even at this age he had no illusions about her.

"Amory."

"Oh, yes."

"I want you to take a red-hot bath—as hot as you can bear it, and just relax your nerves. You can read in the tub if you wish."

She fed him sections of the "Fetes Galantes" before he was ten; at eleven he could talk glibly, if rather reminiscently, of Brahms and Mozart and Beethoven. One afternoon, when left alone in the hotel at Hot Springs, he sampled his mother's apricot cordial, and as the taste pleased him, he became quite tipsy. This was fun for a while, but he essayed a cigarette in his exaltation, and succumbed to a vulgar, plebeian reaction. Though this incident horrified Beatrice, it also secretly amused her and became part of what in a later generation would have been termed her "line."

"This son of mine," he heard her tell a room full of awestruck, admiring women one day, "is entirely sophisticated and quite charming—but delicate—we're all delicate; here, you know." Her hand was radiantly outlined against her beautiful bosom; then sinking her voice to a whisper, she told them of the apricot cordial.

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Table of Contents

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Foreword

1. In her introduction, Susan Orlean says that, like everything else Fitzgerald wrote, This Side of Paradise is “a treatise about class.” Do you agree? How does Fitzgerald’s preoccupation with class inform his writing? Why is Amory so obsessed with social status?

2. Many critics have dismissed the novel’s episodic structure. What do you think of Fitzgerald’s organization of plot and theme? Does his arrangement, or lack thereof, in any way effectively convey the restlessness of Amory and his contemporaries? What did you ultimately come away with at the novel’s conclusion?

3. Discuss the importance of all things romantic in the novel. Are the romantic pursuits of Amory and his friends primarily satisfying or disillusioning? How does money, or the lack of it, play a part in the pursuit of love? Would you characterize Amory as cynical about love?

4. When first published, This Side of Paradise defined and catalyzed the youth movement of the 1920s. How does Fitzgerald’s forthrightness on the vagaries of youth in 1920 strike you as a reader today?

5. At the conclusion of the novel, Fitzgerald describes a new generation “grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.” To what extent is this true? What part does World War I play in the consciousness and actions of Fitzgerald’s characters?

6. Discuss the significance of religion in the novel. Amory often raises questions of faith, good versus evil, and sacrifice. What does he conclude? What role does Monsignor Darcy play in Amory’s developing moral identity? What is Amory’s vocation?

7. Is This Side ofParadise in any way a tragic novel? How does it attempt to explain tragedy or loss? Do you think Fitzgerald intended a mournful or ultimately hopeful perspective? Why or why not?

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Reading Group Guide

1. In her introduction, Susan Orlean says that, like everything else Fitzgerald wrote, This Side of Paradise is “a treatise about class.” Do you agree? How does Fitzgerald’s preoccupation with class inform his writing? Why is Amory so obsessed with social status?

2. Many critics have dismissed the novel’s episodic structure. What do you think of Fitzgerald’s organization of plot and theme? Does his arrangement, or lack thereof, in any way effectively convey the restlessness of Amory and his contemporaries? What did you ultimately come away with at the novel’s conclusion?

3. Discuss the importance of all things romantic in the novel. Are the romantic pursuits of Amory and his friends primarily satisfying or disillusioning? How does money, or the lack of it, play a part in the pursuit of love? Would you characterize Amory as cynical about love?

4. When first published, This Side of Paradise defined and catalyzed the youth movement of the 1920s. How does Fitzgerald’s forthrightness on the vagaries of youth in 1920 strike you as a reader today?

5. At the conclusion of the novel, Fitzgerald describes a new generation “grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.” To what extent is this true? What part does World War I play in the consciousness and actions of Fitzgerald’s characters?

6. Discuss the significance of religion in the novel. Amory often raises questions of faith, good versus evil, and sacrifice. What does he conclude? What role does Monsignor Darcy play in Amory’s developing moral identity? What is Amory’s vocation?

7. Is This Side ofParadise in any way a tragic novel? How does it attempt to explain tragedy or loss? Do you think Fitzgerald intended a mournful or ultimately hopeful perspective? Why or why not?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 183 )
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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    This Side Of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    How presumptious of me to write a review of F.Scott Fitzgerald but in truth I think he would understand. Set in privileged, clueless ,dream-state Ivy League twenties America, Amory Blaine goes about his business of "let's pretend we really are intellectuals and see if we can squeeze a life out of that". Because Fitzgerald got me mad and maybe a little embarrassed too,(I was a college kid once)I realized,"This guy got it right and wrote it right too.." Hemingway might have shared my reaction to this novel and who knows, may have seen it as the basis for the famous exchange between himself and Fitzgerald;Fitzgerald,"The rich and the poor are different."
    Hemingway,"Yes,the rich have more money."
    That's how I concluded as well,self delusions are poison to a full true life, And they can hurt people and nations. Fitgerald was a master and did get it right,even if I didn't like his characters and their values,he got it right,and wrote it brilliantly.
    But thats only round one,this a fight,and far from over.Amory Blaine; his generation,dubbed"Le enfants purdue",(the lost generation),has lost,like his personal Catholic faith, all "the ornaments on the tree"but the tree lives,he wants the tree,wants to live,wants to change,wants to change the world.He teeters on the edge of socialism,"Every boy should have an equal start,not be falsely bolstered by money,or those hideous boarding schools,dragged through college."As had in fact ,Amory.
    He decries the shallowness of that education,goes on to say,and I paraphrase loosely,"I got an education despite having gone to college."
    Fitgerald can be frighteningly,poetically fierce.In a scene in a graveyard by Princeton, his alma mater,Amory is contemplating nature,Hamlet-like,he touches a vine growing on vault,"covered with late blooming,weepy,watery blue flowers that might have grown from dead eyes,sticky to the touch with a sickening odor."
    The exchange ,in a scene where Amory ,enduring hard personal changes in fortune, is offered a lift in a limo,and holds forth on the need for social change,is less poetic but not less powerful. Flappers aside,roaring twenties aside,this book is responsible,it lives,just as Amory wanted for himself finally.You know,I have to say it,"it was an education,really." And by a master.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2010

    Confusing, but impossible to put down

    F. Scott Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise" was written in the typical excessive Fitzgerald style, with lots of confusing allusions and very lengthy, wordy descriptions. However, the satisfaction in reading this comes mostly in the voyeuristic, almost "E! True Hollywood Story"-like glimpse into the main character, Amory Blaine's life. The main character was probably the sole thing that kept me interested while reading this - the book made me want to know everything there was to know about Amory, and by the end, I did know everything about him and I wanted him to see the things in himself that I saw in him, thanks to the author's masterful description of him and his personality.
    I also found myself kind of desperate for Amory to be happy in a relationship for once - I could have sworn that Rosalind was going to work out, but typical of Fitzgerald, like in "The Great Gatsby", nothing happens like we want it to.
    My favorite part in this book was the entire Rosalind arc, from the mad, passionate love that he shared with her (that never really ammounted to anything by today's standards) to the point where she shot him down and he was crushed - this was probably the one point where I really emotionally connected with the character and felt just as miserable as he was when he lost his love.
    My least favorite part was in the middle of the story, where it felt like absolutely nothing was happening. I understand that this feeling is probably what Fitzgerald wanted the reader to feel, since this was the point where Amory was in the army for the war that none of the snobbish Princeton boys cared about, including Amory, but still - it felt very dry and boring, and I wanted to skip ahead where I felt sure something exciting was going to happen.
    Overall, this was a great book. The language is hard to follow at times and there are parts where it gets pretty boring, but all of this is overshadowed by the incredible insight we get into the psychology of the character, his development, and his ultimate dismaying self-realization.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2011

    A Classic

    This is Fitzgerald's first attempt at novel. Considering that this was written by a 23 year old it is amazing. The middle third or so of the book is written as play, where the main character Amory gets involved with a girl. The main character was very irritating. His time as Princeton was described in brilliant detail though.
    The plot seems disjointed, but somehow it makes sense. If you are a fan of Fitzgerald this book is highly recommended.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2007

    A Forgotten Classic...

    This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald In F. Scott Fitzgerald¡¯s first and semi-autobiographical novel, This Side of Paradise, he portrays the eccentric coming of age of Amory Blaine. Fitzgerald reveals his personal life struggles through Amory. Because of this, the reader is exposed to intense and honest prose regarding each of Amory¡¯s situations. His internal desire for pretentious social hierarchy and his external displays of idleness and hubris close many doors that would otherwise have been open. This struggle, lined with the excitement racy youth and post-war extravagance bring with it, embodies This Side of Paradise and makes it a must- read classic. F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 24, 1896. He enrolled in Princeton, but was unable to graduate due to joining the army. He started his first novel, This Side of Paradise, while stationed at a Kansas military camp. In 1920 he married Zelda Sayre and together they raised their only child, Scottie. Fitzgerald and wife Zelda were said to have been attracted to and active in the New York aristocratic social scene. After publishing The Beautiful and Dammed in 1922- and The Great Gatsby in 1925, Fitzgerald suffered from alcoholism, and Zelda was institutionalized due to her emotional breakdowns. Fitzgerald worked in Hollywood as a scriptwriter before he died on December 21, 1940 of a heart attack. This book, although not as highly revered as The Great Gatsby, remains amongst a very short list of great American classics- and with reason. It is a beautifully executed, honest projection of an era that is otherwise filled with illusion and policy. This Side of Paradise holds within its bind a history lesson far deeper than that found in any text book. Fitzgerald elegantly and vividly portrays the young idealism of the ¡°Flapper age.¡± Fitzgerald writes, ¡°Ten o¡¯clock found them penniless. They had suffered greatly on their last eleven cents and, singing, strolled up through the casinos and lighted arches on the boardwalk, stopping to listen approvingly to all bang concerts.¡± Like this small excerpt, the books¡¯ entire diction is bubbled with young hope and exuberance. The experience and emotions Fitzgerald provides to the reader are precise and consistent. It is like the fountain of youth- flooding with the promise of handsomer times. Anyone who reads it is bound to feel a little bit livelier. This book is recommended to all history students, for all the social climbers who wish to empathize or to be empathized with, and to all those who need to be reminded about the purities of youth.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2003

    Beautiful Writing

    When it was published someone famously called this book 'the collected writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald' and the wag who made the quip had a point. Still, it is a beautiful and interesting portrait of a priviledged and Romantic child's coming of age. The passages describing Princeton are the most lyrical. This book showed the world the potential Fitzgerald had for lyrical prose and writing fine novels, potential fulfilled in Gatsby and Tender is the Night.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2001

    The Most Interesting Autobiography Ever

    I read the Great Gatsby before This Side of Paradise and find it much more understandable and interesting. Overall, this book is much less confusing and the events are mostly in chronological order from the viewpoint of the protagnist, Amory Blain, instead of a characterized narrator. It's a thoughtful book and displays a whole new perspective on things. The time and society at the time is well presented as the main character experiences the triumphs and setbacks so far in his young life around centered around his own 'superior' ideas and ideals. Fitzgerald flowing and elegant writing give life to this book as it's most suitable to Amory Blain whom he most likely wrote autobiographically. It's interesting to go inside someone's head and explor how they think and perceive the world around them, how their ideas change and evolve, especially a romantic egotist's. The ending's a bit lose but it has impact, making you wish it for more while knowing it cannot be so. A fascinating book, yet tangible, it should be read before Great Gatsby which become more comprehensible after This Side of Paradise.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2014

    Nice book

    Most of the characters in this book are not likable at all, and sometimes I felt no need to finish the book. But not being able to put the it down, I found myself completely intreched in the story and I was really enjoying it. It follows a self-obsorbed boy named Amory from his childhood to his adulthood, and shows how he starts to think of others than himself. Although towards the end, I started to feel that the author wrote the book just to promote atheism and socialism.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    AHHHH!!!!!!!!!! SCREAM!!!!!!!!! AAHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Made You Look.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2013

    Bluemoon

    Back

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2013

    Love this book 

    Love this book 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012

    i love f.scott books, what a author

    i love f.scott books, what a author

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    Test

    Test

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2012

    Bad

    Nothing good dont waste your time

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2012

    No thanks

    Too much like reading a history book.

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2006

    Immaturely Written

    This Side of Paradise was Fitzgerald's first book, and it clearly shows. He seems unable to capture human emotions realistically. When he does, Fitzgerald is melodramatic. The ending is rushed, and does not fit with the rest of the book. Amory seems to have some revelation about his life, though there is nothing in the previous chapters that would contribute to this revelation. Fitzgerald merely tries to make sense of a nonsensical book. I read this for a high school class, and found it not quite up to par with some of his other works, such as The Beautiful and The Damned, The Great Gatsby, or even Tender is the Night

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2003

    Only read if you must!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I didn't feel this book captured my attention nor did I like it. I could and have read much better. I wouldn't suggest it to anyone.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2003

    Perfect title for a near perfect book

    This is an amazing novel that is very selectively worded. Fitzgerald is a master of the written word, and he never wastes a single one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2002

    A Great Book

    I was a little skeptical at first about how this book would compare to the 'Great Gatsby'. The Great Gatsby was an excellent book, but I think this book is even better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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