Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Book Review

My Great American Read TBR quest continues with F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 classic "The Great Gatsby". This is a super short book and has certainly garnered much praise over the decades. Was I as impressed as many other readers have been? Below is my book review. As always, feel free to chime in with your comments!

My Half Price Books Version of The Great Gatsby

Nick Carraway arrives in West Egg Village, Long Island in the spring of 1922 from his hometown in the Midwest. He rents a modest house that sits among extravagant mansions and soon becomes immersed in the lives of several of the mansions’ inhabitants.

Through Nick’s eyes and POV, we meet Jay Gatsby, who, for the past five years, has molded himself into the man he thinks Daisy Buchanan desires. To Gatsby, Daisy is the one who got away and he’s determined to get a second chance no matter the cost. Although Daisy is now a mother, married to Tom Buchanan, Gatsby’s scheme to insert himself into the lives of the Buchanans soon materializes, but with tragic consequences.

I read this book in high school, which admittedly was a very long time ago and I had trouble recollecting much of what I’d read way back then. Therefore, reading it this time was like reading it for the first time and I’m afraid I wasn’t nearly as impressed with The Great Gatsby as many people seem to be.

Raymond Chandler said of Fitzgerald’s writing, “He had one of the rarest qualities in all literature – charm.” And yes, I’d have to agree. I did find the writing in The Great Gatsby to be charming with regards to prose, setting, atmosphere and symbolism. I even enjoyed some of the dialogue. In particular, I loved Daisy’s remembered words after the birth of her daughter, “All right… I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” That was page 16 and I immediately thought this is going to be insightful and deep. This just might go somewhere great. But then I read on and was dismayed to find that that one line pretty much summed up Daisy’s mindset throughout the book.

I found I had the same opinion that many other critics have had about The Great Gatsby: the main characters are incredibly unlikeable. Tom Buchanan is a violent, racist, misogynist with not one single redeeming quality. Daisy is a wishy-washy, rich, beautiful little fool of a girl without a conscience. As for Nick I didn't think he functioned just as the story’s POV character. He was no innocent bystander. In my opinion, he was a willing participant and collaborator who, although remained a faithful friend to Gatsby until the very end, was annoyingly complacent in the face of violence and murder. Not only did I find the characters unlikeable, I thought they were extremely one-dimensional. None of the characters change. They are exactly the same at the end as they were in the beginning. The book is short and the events take place over just a three-month spam, which doesn’t leave much room for character or plot development. Fitzgerald may or may not have designed things this way. I certainly couldn’t figure it out.

In the end, The Great Gatsby was one of those classic books I was glad I read simply so I could say that I did. I honestly don’t feel any better or worse off for having done so.

2.5 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton, DIY Mom Blog

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