Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Date Of Version Reviewed: 2013
Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics
What the book is about…
Day and night Jay Gatsby’s mansion on West Egg buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby – young, handsome, fabulously rich – always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, although no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret londong that can never be fulfilled.
Fitzgerald’s most famous work hit the number 2 spot in the Modern Library top 100 novels of all time – losing out only to Joyce’s Ulysses. The fact that Gatsby beat out Sound and the Fury, Lolita, Brave New World, Animal Farm and many other key works is a testament to Fitzgerald’s skill as a writer. I was suspicious and sat down with this novel with skepticism… could a novel me that good? This was a board of experts but Gatsby also rated number 12 in the reader’s poll too. I had to give it a go.
Jay Gatsby is a well-crafted character. On the surface he is an extravagant host; opening his mansion to an eclectic array of socialites with champagne flowing and music drifting across his outdoor pool. It is of little comfort to the man who doesn’t really know anything about any of his guests as he whiles away the hours staring into a sea of faces in a desperate attempt to locate a true love from years gone by. One may see this as a romantic gesture, a long yearning to reunite with a girl he lost but there is an element of obsession and of youthful naivety about the man which is in some ways incredibly pathetic. What is so brilliant about this whole scenario isn’t so much the chase to find his one true love but the backstory of how Gatsby came into his position to begin.Gatsby’s money did not come from inheritance but from organised crime. The story takes place during the time of prohibition and Gatsby has profited greatly from selling liquor illegally. It is interesting that the reader is torn between wanting to see Gatsby succeed whilst having to admit that his gains came at the expense of others.
We are treated to another contemporary aspect of everyday life for Gatsby that is as prevalent today as it is in Gatsby’s own existence. As Gatsby lies in his coffin, surrounded by only a handful of true friends, he is no longer thought of by the criminals with whom he associated himself in life. The gangsters he once knew shun him in death; turning their backs and protecting their own interests above a genuinely warm man’s memory. In a day where people are quick to forget one another, a world where technology is king, it is surprisingly contemporary and somewhat sad.
Daisy, as Gatsby’s love interest, is an alluring figure torn between her unfulfilling marriage to cheating husband and the young love who walks back into her life. The reader is drawn into wanting the protagonist to get the girl in the end but as the story progresses one begins to understand the true nature of the girl who has it all. No sooner is she creeping off to meet Gatsby is she stabbing him in the back in the most hurtful of ways. Fitzgerald is masterful in his ability to chip away at Daisy’s innocent, angelic exterior with such precision and patience that the pay-off is worth the wait. Is Daisy, knowing her husband has been cheating with other women for years, taking the opportunity to one up her husband by using Gatsby in a human game of chess? What does she truly want from the whole reunion with a infatuated Gatsby? These questions are weaved into the perfect romantic drama.
The story itself is simple and it is with simplicity that comes brilliance. There is no long winded subplot or convoluted mishmash of threads to the story. It is simply a beautifully constructed piece of work that really is something everyone should take the time to read. I am disappointed it took me so long to figure it out!
What the folks at Goodreads said…
“The Great Gatsby is about deception; Fitzgerald tints our glasses rosy with gorgeous prose and a narrator you want so much to trust, but leaves the lenses just translucent enough for us to see that Gatsby is getting the same treatment. And if Gatsby represents the truth of the American Dream, it means trouble for us all. Consider it the most pleasant insult you’ll ever receive.” Alex 5/5
“I can’t believe this book is revered with the rest of the great classics. Truly unbelievable. Fitzgerald certainly kissed the right asses with this one.” Pollopicu 1/5
“Gatsby is short and easily accessible, and I have no doubt these aspects of the novel do lend to its everlasting popularity. At the same time, it should never diminish its truly admirable ability to tease apart some of the most confounding qualities American culture values: money, beauty, youth, hard work, and the ever effusive, love.” Gina 4/5
“There was one thing I really liked about The Great Gatsby. It was short.” Inge 2/5
“The Great Gatsby is an inimitable wonder of American fiction. And, for lack of a better word, an “application” of the English language that has few equals. The novel is astounding.” Jason 5/5
” The bottom line….Fitzgerald is dead and I’ve not found credible sources from HIM as to what he meant. So I’m left with analyzing this book with my own intellect and now that I’m old enough “to think for myself” and not concerned about the grade I will receive I find this book “coming up short”. Robin 2/5
“The Great Gatsby is a scathing social commentary that explores the fruitlessness of pursuing dreams that in reality are nothing more than shadows. To that end The Great Gatsby is a brilliant piece of fiction designed to criticise the lack of morality of the rich and selfish individuals who feed off the work of the poor.” Jonathan 5/5