I won a beautiful Alma set of F Scott Fitzgerald’s work two years ago but sadly until I picked up The Great Gatsby last year the set had been gathering dust on my bookshelf. Almost a year after I picked up The Great Gatsby I thought it was about time to pick up another one and from the set I chose The Beautiful and Damned.
The Beautiful and Damned follows Anthony Patch a privileged, fashionable and handsome young man. Anthony lives in New York as the jazz age is taking hold of the country. Anthony, the heir of his extremely prosperous grandfather, fritters away his days on reading, dining, drinking and entertaining with no interest in working as he contemplates the money he will inherit instead. During the winter season Anthony meets, and quickly falls in love with and marries the beautiful socialite Gloria. Rather than Anthony settling down to a career and raising a family the marriage only accelerates Anthony and Gloria’s descent into a life of glamour and debauchery. Neither have a care for money as they look forward to the day they will inherit Anthony’s grandfather’s fortune.
Like The Great Gatsby I loved the setting of The Beautiful and Damned. The clothes, music, parties and glamour of the jazz age is intoxicating. I find the society, outlook and opinions of the age unattractive though and in turn so are the characters in this novel. Anthony is educated and privileged he looks down upon those he believes to be inferior in wealth, education, class and appearance. Anthony is surrounded by opportunities but I feel he squanders them all. Gloria is a beautiful and spoilt girl who cares only for being admired, loved and surrounded by beautiful things. Gloria has broken more hearts than she could possibly count and has done it without remorse. Together Anthony and Gloria are a toxic combination. I thought they were fascinating to read about but I didn’t like them.
The Beautiful and Damned is my second foray into F Scott Fitzgerald’s work my first was The Great Gatsby. I look forward to reading the rest of the Alma set. I find Fitzgerald’s writing to be detailed, eloquent, but quite meandering. Fitzgerald is certainly not a direct writer. Rather than this annoying me though I find this style adds to the precocious, aloof, and flamboyant mood of the age and setting. Which works particularly well here as The Beautiful and Damned is told predominantly from Anthony’s point of view (a little is told from Gloria’s) a man who is increasingly aloof and flamboyant with too much time to think and meander on his hands. Not sure this style would work for me in any other setting though.
The Beautiful and Damned is a glitzy glimpse into the past. I can’t say I loved this novel because of the dislikeable characters but I did find it all very interesting. I recommend to those interested in the jazz age and American classics. This is my 21st read off my Classics Club list. I have Tender is the Night and This Side of Paradise to choose from next. Okay read.
Have you read Fitzgerald? What novel should I read next?