With his impeccable lineage and Harvard education, twenty-five-year-old Anthony Patch is one of the sparkling lights of New York society. The presumptive heir to an enormous fortune, he marries the tempestuous Kansas City socialite Gloria Gilbert, and the two embark on a life of wild extravagance and profligate pleasure, assuming that whatever they cannot afford today they will be able to pay for tomorrow. But when Anthony’s inheritance disappears, so too does his sense of invincibility. A brief tour in the Great War—where he finds comfort in another woman’s arms—cannot correct Anthony’s downward trajectory, and the marriage that began with such glittering promise ends in shambles.
Fitzgerald’s next novel, The Great Gatsby, would be his masterwork. But The Beautiful and Damned, with its evocative parallels to his relationship with Zelda and its prescient portrait of a man tumbling from dazzling heights to gloomy depths, is arguably his most personal.