3* (out of 5*)
It took me forever to finish The Beautiful and Damned. Not only because it drags on (a lot) and I have low boredom threshold, but because I didn’t enjoy spending time with Anthony and Gloria Patch.
Reading TBATD – at least in the beginning – felt like going from one party to the next and always ending up with a crowd you don’t like – which turns the whole night out into a bit of a disappointment. However, there is also something quite gripping about the book.
For a start there is some wonderful writing. This is just one that stuck with me – it describes the routine of Gloria’s lunch appointments at around the time when she meets Anthony:
“With her fork she would tantalize the heart of an adoring artichoke, while her escort served himself up in the thick, dripping sentences of an enraptured man.”
And then there is that FSF injected some his personal experiences into the story. The obvious parallels are that couple live in an apartment in New York, Anthony joining the Army, and the importance of alcohol.
Although, FSF may not have been able to predict in 1922 that similar to Anthony, his own life would be unraveled by alcoholism. But what clinched the decision to not give up on the story for me was the very aspect that made it so hard to finish. The protagonists are unlikable (I could not even warm to Gloria’s sass). They have no aspirations, and the description of their wasted lives made reading about them at times seem like a waste of time, too. And then it occurred to me that I didn’t dislike the story, only the characters, and then I very much wanted to see them fail.