This is a hard book for me to review since all throughout and even after finishing, I’m not sure how much I really like it.
I love jazz age fiction, I loved Gatsby and I love Hemmingway and Waugh novels and the way they can so wonderfully capture the restlessness and excess of the middle-to-upper classes of the time. Stories of the “lost generation” or “the bright young things” as they were called in England, always seem to convey a wonderful combination of melancholy and frivolity that intrigues me. Meaninglessness and bathtubs of gin… what could be better, amIright? It was the beginning of modernity as we know it and I just want to put on some stockings, stick a feather in my hair, listen to some jazz, and use the words “frightfully” and “dreadful” as often as I can.
“The Beautiful and Damned” exemplifies this perfectly but with a bit of a darker edge to it.
It’s the story of a young man, Anthony, and the captivating and beautiful woman he marries, Gloria, who float around New York City in the 1920s drinking, partying, and spending more money than they have with the expectation of inheriting a very large sum when his grandfather dies. However, when the money does not come through (because the grandfather, a staunch prohibitionist, disapproves of their frivilous lifestyle and cuts them out of the will), Anthony and Gloria are ruined and spiral into a hateful and destructive marriage where they crumble into debt and alcoholism.
Depressing, right? I know. Which is why I said that I may not have thoroughly enjoyed it as much as I wish I did. I mean, it’s January– the sun seldom appears, everything is muddy and dark, I’m always grumpy and here I am reading existentialist diatribes like this:
“For it seemed to me that there was no ultimate goal for man. Man was beginning a grotesque and bewildered fight with nature– nature, that by the divine and magnificent accident had brought us to where we could fly in her face.” (page 220)
It got to be a little too much. Can you blame me if once in a while, I closed the book, threw on some Lady Gaga and danced around my apartment wearing every hat I own?
It was beautifully written though; Fitzgerald’s prose is poetic and his protagonist, Gloria, the classic “Belle Dame Sans Merci,” was a complicated and fascinating character– a character which I could write much more about because she kind of drove me crazy but it will make this review too long and I’m already bored. Maybe at some point when I have too much time on my hands, I will write a rant about the “Belle Dame Sans Merci” archetype but not right now. Anyway, many critics say that she was based on Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. Eesk, what a handful she musta been!
I do recommend this novel but maybe read it with a sunlamp on you or some tropical music playing in the background just to take the edge of.
Hope you’re reading is going well! Feel free to share!