With this first novel the author of The Great Gatsby established himself as an important American novelist and launched a celebrated literary career that was to produce many classics of 20th-century fiction. The semi-autobiographical story of Amory Blaine traces the coming of age of a young man who typifies the "lost generation" of America’s Jazz Age. Fitzgerald’s descriptions of his protagonist’s pampered childhood, experiences at Princeton, love affairs, and sobering confrontations with the harsh realities of World War I reflect much of the author’s own path to maturity. Reviewers took notice of Fitzgerald’s elegant and poignant style, and the book opened up financial and social opportunities that allowed him to pursue a career as a novelist.
At the same time, the book provided Fitzgerald and his new wife, Zelda, with the means of pursuing their tumultuous relationship, the ups and downs of which became almost as famous as his novels. Mingling with the glitterati of the day on the French Riviera, the Fitzgeralds became popular celebrities of the social scene, and their bouts with alcohol and depression, which eventually led to Zelda’s insanity, achieved legendary status.
This Side of Paradise is the brilliant debut of a great novelist, who, perhaps better than any other American writer, captured the fragile, illusory, and tragic aspects of the American dream.