The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald Book Review: An Exquisitely Painful Read

The Beautiful and DamnedThe Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Simon & Schuster, 9780743451505)
Publication date: 25 June 2002 (first published 1922)
My rating:

Would-be Jazz Age aristocrats Anthony and Gloria Patch embody the corrupt high society of 1920s New York: they are beautiful, shallow, pleasure-seeking, and vain. As presumptive heirs to a large fortune, they begin their married life by living well beyond their means. Their days are marked by endless drinking, dancing, luxury, and play. But when the expected inheritance is withheld, their lives become consumed with the pursuit of wealth, and their alliance begins to fall apart. (Vintage Classics description)

'Things are sweeter when they're lost. I know--because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot, and when I got it it turned to dust in my hand.'

The Beautiful and Damned has some beautiful lines and profound meditations on the transient nature of youth, beauty and desire, but the concept of this book is much better than the execution. Considering the dark, compelling themes and Fitzgerald's magnum opus, The Great Gatsby, this had the potential to move and captivate me; instead, the unsympathetic characters left me cold.

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The extended philosophical treatises were painful, the plot is plodding and meanders aimlessly... This may reflect the malaise and chaotic internal state of the characters (and Fitzgerald himself), but at over 400 pages, this is overwritten and badly in need of an edit.

Fitzgerald's exquisite writing isn't enough to elevate this to the status of greatness; in fact, it often gets in his way. Not an easy or ultimately rewarding read.

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