adult fiction, review

The Beautiful And The Damned – F.Scott Fitzgerald

“In this state he considered that he would one day accomplish some quiet subtle thing that the elect would deem worthy, and, passing on, would join the dimmer stars in a nebulous, indeterminate heaven half-way between and immortality.”

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Blurb: “Anthony and Gloria are the essence of Jazz Age glamour. A brilliant and magnetic couple, they fling themselves at life with an energy that is thrilling. New York is a playground where they dance and drink for days on end. Their marriage is a passionate theatrical performance; they are young, rich, alive and lovely and they intend to inherit the earth. But as money becomes tight, their marriage becomes impossible. And with their inheritance still distant, Anthony and Gloria must grow up and face reality; they may be beautiful but they are also damned.”

The Beautiful And The Damned is the second book that F.Scott Fitzgerald released and has been labelled “too pessimistic” due to its themes of love, money and social commentary. Many critics believe that Fitzgerald drew from his own marriage with his wife, Zelda, to populate the story.

Readers are first introduced to Anthony. A typical New York socialite biding his time until he can finally claim his inheritance. We are guided through his back story and told of his hopes and worries before he finally sets his eyes on Gloria and he is instantly besotted. From the outset, it feels like we are supposed to root for Anthony: he’s very likeable and often engages in deep discussions, showing his vulnerability.

Gloria, on the other hand, is not pleasant to endure. From the initial introduction, it is clear that she is the type of woman who wants to rebel against what is expected of her in the time period: She is young and beautiful and wishes to stay that way forever. She doesn’t want to marry and gains much enjoyment from having several men vying for her attention. While Anthony works on ideas about how to win her heart, she is very much open to whoever she can get her hands on; much to Anthony’s dismay.

This is very much a character driven story. It’s a quiet story about two people who fall in love, get married and then start to really see the other person. It’s a deep insight into how well we really know the people around us. Once he gets the girl, Anthony’s anxious side suddenly arises and he often mistreats Gloria when she is in one of her moods. Gloria is insufferable: complaining constantly about Anthony’s failures to get a job, how she is going to age, how having children will ruin her body. Her interactions with Anthony seem to read as her deciding to marry him in order to shut up everyone else in her life.

While The Great Gatsby precedes this novel (it was published three years after The beautiful  And The Damned), I feel that a lot of my enjoyment from this book is down to the comparisons I could make between Anthony and Jay Gatsby, and Gloria and Daisy. I can only assume that their relationship is what lit the spark for Fitzgerald to pursue a new story that would become one of the most successful books he ever wrote.

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