Anoth­er Side of Par­adise: A Novel

  • Review
By – April 20, 2020

Nobody at the posh 1937 Hol­ly­wood par­ty would have guessed that one of the guests, the beau­ti­ful, blond, beguil­ing gos­sip colum­nist Sheilah Gra­ham, was Jew­ish. That was the par­ty where Gra­ham first met the famous, dash­ing nov­el­ist F. Scott Fitzger­ald, and although she even­tu­al­ly revealed her secret to Fitzger­ald, Gra­ham was con­vinced that her climb up the social and finan­cial lad­der depend­ed upon the con­ceal­ment of her true identity.

Anoth­er Side of Par­adise is Sal­ly Koslow’s com­pelling depic­tion of the tumul­tuous love affair between Fitzger­ald, whose wife was insti­tu­tion­al­ized and who strug­gled with alco­holism, and Gra­ham, who returned to him each time he man­aged to gain con­trol of his drink­ing. Although her work is fic­tion, Koslow describes many of the inci­dents that Graham’s chil­dren, the pro­fes­sor and writer Wendy Fairey and the writer and pro­duc­er Robert West­brook, have writ­ten about in their own memoirs.

Sheilah Gra­ham was born Lily Shiel in Lon­don to a fam­i­ly that was so des­per­ate­ly poor after the death of Shiel’s father that her moth­er had to send two of her chil­dren — six-year-old Lily and her broth­er Mor­ris — to an orphan­age for Jew­ish chil­dren. Koslow’s book accu­rate­ly por­trays the awful con­di­tions there; accord­ing to Fairey’s 2015 work, Book­marked, Gra­ham her­self would use the word Dick­en­sian” to describe the six years she lived there. How­ev­er, she emerged with an indomitable will to suc­ceed and soon mar­ried a man who was twice her age and helped trans­form Lily into Sheilah, the pol­ished soci­ety lady she had always dreamed of being.

Koslow often hews close­ly to the truth in this well-researched nov­el. One such har­row­ing inci­dent, which Fairey ref­er­ences in her own book, is Graham’s vis­it to her father’s grave in Berlin where Ger­man chil­dren threw stones at her, yelling, Jüden, Jüden.”

What comes across most strong­ly in Koslow’s account is the deep love and affec­tion between Gra­ham and Fitzger­ald, despite ugly inci­dents result­ing from his alco­holism. Most wrench­ing for Gra­ham was when Fitzger­ald struck her in a drunk­en fury, and when, in anoth­er of his alco­hol-fueled rages, he screamed the truth about Graham’s reli­gion to the nurse who was car­ing for him at the time.

Yet, Gra­ham owed her love and appre­ci­a­tion for lit­er­a­ture to Fitzgerald’s Col­lege of One,” where he guid­ed Graham’s read­ing and dis­cussed the works with her after­wards. As Koslow demon­strates in this mov­ing depic­tion of the remark­able and pas­sion­ate Sheila Gra­ham, Fitzger­ald was Graham’s one and only true love.

Shi­ra R. Lon­don is the librar­i­an at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Com­mu­ni­ty High School in Bal­ti­more, MD. She holds an M.L.S. from Colum­bia University.

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