Another Side of Paradise

Written by Sally Koslow
Review by G. J. Berger

The four-year romance between the married F. Scott Fitzgerald and divorced Hollywood gossip columnist Sheilah Graham has been chronicled in books and movies before this fictional retelling—but not like this.

Koslow begins her portrayal with Scott’s sudden death in December 1940 after years of rejection letters, dieting on candy bars and gin, and cancelled book and movie script contracts. Next, the story takes us to their first meeting and then further back to Graham’s childhood of abject poverty in London’s slums, an orphanage, and her fight for every rung up the ladder to success. Scott and Graham make a perfect match. He cherishes her mind, spunk, and beauty. She has the strength to put up with his violent binges, admires his giant literary talent, and basks in his depth of feeling for her.

Graham’s first-person point of view (in mostly the present tense) makes for white-hot intensity. The romance is deep and interesting but never pornographic. Scott’s addiction and downward spiral are riveting but never maudlin. Lighter vignettes of Hollywood’s golden age and industry characters enhance the main story. After all, Graham was the biggest gossip columnist of her time. The prose feels as if Graham herself were the author, ranging from literary to snappy and funny (“The speeches were each as long as a lease”; “danced like a wounded kangaroo”). This intimate nothing-held-back work is a pleasure from the first lines to the last and will linger with many a reader.