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
Source: library copy
Rate: one star, did not like it.