Friday, August 24, 2012

Book review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Holy long description, Goodreads! I cut some to make it fit better. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

...A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings... Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing...

So I've always been a bit reluctant to read the "classics." I read the ones I had to in high school, made a half-hearted attempt at reading 1984 (which I made it halfway through), and called it good.

Then I saw the trailer for The Great Gatsby.

And I had to admit, the story actually seemed kind of exciting. I love that era of US culture. And I was hearing lots of people bemoan all the casting choices. So I decided to read it for myself (and of course, by that I mean I listened to it).

My thoughts:

1. F. Scott Fitzgerald certainly did have a way with words. It's one of those books that if I was reading it, I'm sure I would have marked many pages and gone back to copy down some of the beautiful language.

2. When I think of the "classics" I think long difficult to get through. This might just be because I've been too stubborn to read many of them. The Great Gatsby is neither. It's about cheating husbands, love affairs, the wealthy compared to the rest of us, perception of others, and many other things I could definitely relate to. (Well, I haven't had a cheating husband, but the plotline is familiar. :)

3. I'm not good at pointing out theme, but one of the ideas this book seemed to portray is one of my favorites -- that you can never really know what's going on in someone else's life. Only the parts they choose to show you.

In the end I gave this book three stars. I enjoyed it, but I didn't looove it. I think I might read it again, and actually read it, because I love the way Fitzgerald placed his words and phrases. The writing really is beautiful.

Did I fall in love with the story or the characters? No. Was I entertained the whole way through the book? Yes. So it's probably worth your time.

Plus, you know, it is a classic.

Are any of you huge Gatsby fans? I know they're out there! I'd love to hear what you all think of this one.


Amy said...

I've always wanted to read it, but i haven''ve inspired me!!

Breenah said...

I totally didn't understand half of it when I read it in high school, but with all the press for the movie I've read enough that I finally get it. I can't wait to see the movie!

Kate said...

I set out, years ago, to gradually tackle the classics. Some I love; some I struggle with. (It took me 3 times to finish Heart of Darkness, which is super short!) I just try to mix them in with my normal reads so I don't over do it.

I've read The Great Gatsby twice now. Once in high school, once out. I kind want to read it again.

But I feel very similarly to you. It's not that I loved the story or characters. It was good, but not amazing. But, there's just something about how it was written that draws me into it.

Genna said...

I read this earlier this summer and really enjoyed it. Not loved, but you're totally spot-on with the language. It's so beautiful and perfectly constructed that it flows. I highlighted so much when I read it! And the movie looks pretty good, too.

Katie said...

I love the Great Gatsby!! It was my favorite of all the books we read in high school, and I've read it several times. I don't love "classics" either because usually they're just so hard to read (i.e. Dickens, Shakespeare). But this one was great. My other favorite from school was A Separate Peace-- you should check it out! Have a great weekend! :)

Cassy said...

I highly recommend the classics, but The Great Gatsby is not one of my favorites. The classics are great, but it's just like anything else...gotta find the ones that speak to you, ya know? Congrats on tackling it, though!

Tamara said...

I've never read it because of exactly what you said - "When I think of the "classics" I think long difficult to get through"

But after this review, I'm kind of tempted to try this one.

Victoria said...

i read this for the first time a few months ago (since i never read it in high school or college either) and i wasn't a big fan of it. it was just a sad/depressing story and sort of boring in the beginning....although the movie version looks more enjoyable!!

happy friday!

Lyndsay said...

I loved this book. I had to read it my sophomore year of high school, and it's still one of my all-time favorites.

Lyndsay @ Simply Lyndsay

Katie Wall said...

I still haven't read it, I need to. It's going to be hard to not picture Gatsby as Vincent Chase though haha.

Katie said...

I've tried to go back and read books that we were forced to read in high school and I just can't stomach them. I even downloaded the Scarlet Letter and wouldn't read it on my flight. And I did have any other book on mmy kindle at the time. I don't know why I can't do it! haha! :)

Wiz said...

I just got my firt classic (Anna Karenina). I am also going to make an effort to read more. I havent read this one but plan to eventually!

Claire said...

I'm always hesitant to pick up the classics that I've accumulated under the pretense of "I need to read these... at some point." But you convinced me to try this one.


Live, Laugh, Love, Teach

Erin O'Riordan said...

'Gatsby' isn't my favorite book ever, but it's a pretty dang good story.

Do give classics a chance. I hated 'Wuthering Heights' the first time through, but now that I'm older (and much more romantic-minded) I reread it every couple of years.

'Anna Karenina' is depressing, as Russian writers tend to be. (It's those long winters.) I cannot imagine disliking 'The Scarlet Letter,' though. The heroine has an adulterous affair with the pastor in Puritan New England, gets pregnant and has a baby - if that's not an interesting way to start a book, then I don't know what is.

Abbey, since you enjoyed 'Gatsby,' I suggest another classic you may enjoy is 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' by Truman Capote. It's pretty short, so not too much of a time commitment, even if you don't end up liking it.

Another classic with similar themes and setting to 'Gatsby' is Theodore Dreiser's 'An American Tragedy.' If you like that book, you can watch the Elizabeth Taylor/Montgomery Clift movie version, which is called 'A Place in the Sun.'

Sarah E. said...

Usually classics make me cringe, but I do like some of them. Like Great Expectations - love love love that one. I will definitely have to give this one a try!

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite book and the 1974 movie (with Mia Farrow) is a favorite movie. It's a great example of what happens when you change yourself for others. Gatsby tried too hard to transform into an ideal that he thought would impress Daisy. He ended up dead and without her love anyway.


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