F. Scott Fitzgerald’s second novel is a great read. It follows through the course of their relationship, from the joys of infatuation to the committed stages’ hardships. It uses the early 1900s cafe culture as an interesting backdrop and really allows the reader to see the complexity that exist with each character. Before I get rolling too deeply into this, one comparison must be made. This book is everything Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises wasn’t. As much as I love Hemingway, this story told a similar tale in a much more enjoyable and captivating way. Horrible to say, as I know these two authors had a deep dislike for one another.
This is my first exposure to Fitzgerald’s writings. He is much more well known for his masterwork, The Great Gatsby. While that novel does seem interesting, I found this recommendation on a list of most underrated books and I feel that is a fair estimate. If you are looking for a romantic comedy style story that could easily be adapted to a Meg Ryan movie, this isn’t what you want. If you are looking for a cynical and realistic portrayal of flawed and selfish people whose love for one another has to endure trials and upheaval, this is your book.
The author’s writing style is simple and beautiful.There are multiple quotable lines spread through the text I had a difficult time nailing down one. The tone is a strange poetic elegance I haven’t really encountered anywhere else. The way in which he so clearly and cleanly becomes the vessel through which his character’s speak is incredible. The effect that their environment of decadence and the social structure in which they reside becomes ever clearer as the novel progresses, but not distractingly so. The author balances the line of a morality tale and an enjoyable narrative in a way that is rarely seen, especially amongst current literature.
The major downside to this book is it really comes to a screeching halt near the middle, I actually took a few weeks to finish this one. I cared enough to return to it, something I rarely do when I abandon a book in the middle. I was grateful I finished it, because I got closure on the characters within. The committed reader could knock this out in a few days, but I think this is best kept as a bedside book. Something to enjoy a few chapters at a time over a longer duration otherwise it does become somewhat ponderous. Overall, I got a lot of entertainment out of this story. I really enjoyed Fitzgerald’s style of writing and think this is a good entry point into the man’s work. This was definitely worth the time spent.
Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here or download his e-book here. Be sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.