Oh no. Not again.
I’ve found another author I adore. Which means, naturally, that I want to read everything else he’s ever written…
This can’t be good. There are so many books I can read in my one lifetime. And there are already so many writers I worship. It’s not good for my eyes to be reading so much. Or my bank account, for that matter. At this rate, my Booktopia wishlist is threatening to swallow up half of the storage space available on the Internet.
I feel like I’m practically the last person in the world to read this week’s book. It is, of course, The Great Gatsby. Anyone who follows me on Twitter has had to put up with me raving about it (and my mint julep cravings) all week.
Err. Sorry about that.
Enough waffling. Here’s my review.
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published in 1925
Reading The Great Gatsby isn’t like reading a book. It’s like being addicted to something.
I picked Gatsby up and turned to the first page on the train to work on a Monday morning. This resulted in me nearly forgetting to actually get off the train. Only twenty pages in, and I was already, hopelessly, maddeningly hooked. Damn you, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Great Gatsby is an absolutely enchanting read. Fitzgerald’s writing will suck you into his world, and you won’t mind one little bit.
And what a world. Shiny cars. Lavish parties. Tall, cool drinks. Gentlemen in flawless suits and women in billowing white dresses. Oh, my. It’s all so very elegant.
Nick Carrway has recently moved to New York from America’s “middle west”. He buys a run-down old home in one of New York’s oldest, swankiest suburbs. Across the bay, in a newer, even swankier suburb, live Nick’s cousin, Daisy, and her husband, Tom.
On the surface, they’re such a charming couple. Not to mention ludicrously rich. But on Nick’s visit, he learns that Tom is having an affair. Oh dear.
Meanwhile, next door to Nick, a man named Gatsby lives by himself in a huge mansion. Nick’s never met him. He just watches Gatsby’s lavish parties wistfully from afar.
Then, suddenly – Nick receives an invite to Gatsby’s next gathering. He’s utterly entranced (and a little sickened) by the beauty, the elegance and the sheer opulence of everything. As for Gatsby, the mysterious man himself – he is elusive. When Nick finally meets him, Gatsby immediately takes Nick into his confidence. The more Nick learns about Gatsby, the more he’s obsessed. But somehow, the stories he tells Nick of his life don’t seem to add up.
Eventually, Nick learns why Gatsby is interested in him: Gatsby loves his cousin, Daisy. They met years ago, before Daisy married Tom, and fell in love. But Gatsby was poor, and went to fight in World War One – sorry The Great War. In the time they’ve spent apart, his love for Daisy has only grown stronger; more obsessive…more dangerous.
Nick has a mission: reunite Daisy and Gatsby. Gatsby is one determined man. But, then again, so is her husband. Tragedy is around the corner, and it will leave you reeling.
Unbelievably, The Great Gatsby is a mere one hundred and seventy two pages long. It definitely doesn’t feel like it. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing is so beautiful, so dense that The Great Gatsby feels like a much longer book. There’s an incredible amount packed into this book; layers and layers of juicy detail.
But that doesn’t mean The Great Gatsby is all literary and snobby. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. It’s actually quite approachable. Fitzgerald’s writing is straightforward, concise, and – most importantly – it’s amazingly clear. Not to mention lovely. Take, for instance, Nick’s lonely musings upon first arriving in New York:
“Again at eight o’clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were lined five deep with throbbing taxicabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt a sinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigarettes made unintelligible circles inside. Imagining that I, too, was hurrying towards gaiety and sharing their intimate excitement, I wished them well” (p. 57 and 58)
Every sentence of Gatsby sings. There’s not a word out of place. Fitzgerald is a true master, managing to perfectly convey the elegance and carelessness and tragedy of The Great Gatsby; the heat, the violence, the emptiness, the ugliness and the immense sadness of it all – in a mere one hundred and seventy two pages. It’s as intricate, tiny and lovely as a diamond ring.
And then, we have Fitzgerald’s characters. First and foremost is Nick – our quiet, thoughtful, first-person narrator; a kind of American everyguy. He tells the story in retrospect, as if to exorcise the unforgotten ghosts of his past. His unique narrative voice is vulnerable and intimate – despite all the things he doesn’t tell us. He tells us that he’s “one of the few honest men (he has) ever known” – but can we really believe him? All liars claim to tell the truth. Then, there’s the breathless, delicate beauty of Daisy, juxtaposed with the possessive, strong Tom, the pair locked a marriage of convenience. Fitzgerald portrays them at the beginning of the book as caricatures. Tom, for instance, “would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game”. Brilliant. And of course, there’s the great Gatsby himself – at first, so looming and powerful…and yet, so vulnerable and small.
The Great Gatsby is the story of a man who isn’t quite what he appears to be. Between these pages, nothing is as it appears, no-one is to be trusted – and nobody will emerge unscathed. Not even the reader. Especially not the reader. Gatsby will possess your very heart – long after you turn the final page.
As I said at the beginning of my review – this book is addictive. Immersive. And it’s only one hundred and seventy pages. Gosh.
Official Book to the Future rating:
Superawesome! – Awesome – Okay – Blah – Superblah!
Should you read it?
What? You haven’t already?
Let me recap: The Great Gatsby is a TARDIS of a book. It looks small on the outside, but it’s impossibly, inconceivably enormous on the inside, packed with detail that will drag you into the elegant, tragic Twenties. Despite the beauty of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing, Gatsby is written with an admirable clarity. If you’re not normally drawn to the (so-called) classics, you’ll like The Great Gatsby. Oh – and thanks to the Popular Penguins range, it’s also amazingly cheap.
Stop reading this review, click on the link below and order a copy!
In a word:
I have a whole heap of half-written entries in files on my computer’s desktop. Maybe, juuust maybe I’ll get around to polishing them off and putting them online this week? With a little luck…