Monday, October 5, 2009

Short Story Monday/The Last of the Belles by F. Scott Fitzgerald

On the first Monday of each month, I plan to read a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Today's choice was The Last of the Belles. It is set in Tarleton, Georgia during the First World War, and told mostly as a flashback. The story comes back to the present many years later for its resolution. The narrator is a fellow named Andy, who is supposed to be a 'safe' date for his friend's girlfriend while that friend is away. Of course he becomes smitten: at first with her name, Ailie Calhoun, and later with her looks and personality. But nothing happens between them while his friend is gone. She is truly the belle of the ball with a different date every night; dates which are esssentially dancing and nothing else. When Bill Knowles, the man who loves her, is coming back, one of her would-be suitors says that if she marries Knowles, he will bring his plane up 6000 feet and turn off the engine.

The wonder of Fitzgerald's writing is that in thirteen pages, he tells an entire story. I could actually feel my heart pounding faster when I finished. I was absolutely wowed. I was completely caught up in this story. The characters are perfectly drawn. The time period is perfectly described.

Some snippets to whet your appetite:

She had the adroitness sugar-coated with sweet, voluble simplicity, the suggested background of devoted fathers, brothers and admirers stretching back into the South's heroic age, the unfailing coolness acquired in the endless struggle with the heat.

We drove through pine woods heavy with lichen and Spanish moss, and between the fallow cotton fields along a road white as the rim of the world.

... I stumbled here and there in the knee-deep underbrush, looking for my youth in a clapboard or a strip of roofing or a rusty tomato can.

You may visit here to read other short story reviews.


  1. Fitzgerald is such a wonderful writer! I really need to read some of his short stories. My story today is by Elizabeth Gaskell.

  2. I love Fitzgerald's writing. I haven't read a lot of it, but I always get completely absorbed when I do.


  3. Lovely. Funny that he would be looking for his youth in a clapboard, though. Strange choice, but I guess I know what he meant.

  4. After reading The Great Gatsby (which I didn't enjoy), and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (which I enjoyed moderately), I don't think I'm much of a fan. But, I'm looking forward to reading all your reviews to see if you convince me to try him again. No pressure ;)

  5. He was really a gifted writer. Wow!

  6. JoAnn, I didn't have a chance to read your post on Monday, but I'll be there today.

    Lezlie, 'absorbed' is the perfect word. It describes exactly how I felt within the pages of the story. That doesn't always happen in reading.

    KSV, I probably should have explained that a little. He had gone back to a place from his past which was destroyed now. The items listed are what still remain, just as we might find an old bottle or a rusted piece of machinery in the woods.

    John, You may see how I feel about Gatsby in a tiny blog entry on FSF on his birthday :<) :

    I'm looking forward to my monthly visits with his stories.

    Kay, he sure was.

  7. Great post! I love your idea to read a story a month.

  8. Amy, I love this whole weekly short story thing that John hosts. Anyone can participate. It's just a neat way to be sure I read a short story every week, and I thought I'd read F. one of those weeks each month.

  9. I must re-visit Fitzgerald's short stories. If you ever come across The Popular Girl, it's a great story and Fitzgerald invented the gir's name Yancy for this story. Some of Zelda's are pretty good, too.

  10. Thank you so much for the suggestion, Vintage Reading. It isn't in my collection, but I'll try and find it for one of my FSF monthly reads. I have one of Zelda's -Alabama- in an old collection of 'stories for the teenage girl.' I posted a story from that book once:

  11. I just watched the 1974 movie about this short story. Apart from the fact that Richard Chamberlain is so incredibly handsome and both he and Susan Serandan act superbly, I was totally drawn into the story - even though the quality of the DVD was dreadful. It makes me want to read some of Fitzgerald's short stories, and learn more about his and Zelda's lives.


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