The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Digital Audiobook narrated by Anthony Heald
After meeting and losing Daisy during the war, Gatsby has made himself fabulously wealthy. Now, he believes that his only way to true happiness is to find his way back into Daisy's life, and he uses Nick to try to reach her. What happens when the characters' fantasies are confronted with reality makes for a startling conclusion to this iconic masterpiece.
The first time I read The Great Gatsby, I was a junior in high school. I despised it with all of my heart and soul, and gave it a one-star rating. Then, I wrote a comprehensive three page essay of the importance of eye color in this work. High school is exhilarating. I never ever intended to read it again. Then the 2013 film dropped, with Leonardo diCaprio and Tobey Maguire and I loved it. So I’ve been rethinking high-school me’s opinions on things and I decided to give this book another shot.
I am going to do my best throughout this review to not compare this to the Baz Luhrmann film (although I really want to).
All in all, I’m still not impressed with The Great Gatsby. It’s a short book, but I found myself breaking often because it was dull and dreary. I like Gatsby and Jordan and Nick well enough in the beginning and they held my interest – but just barely. The Great Gatsby is as much a study in human frivolousness and dependency as it is a love story. There’s a lot of meandering about in the narrative to relate scenes and thoughts that could be interesting to one reader or another… but weren’t interesting to me. It’s a stylistic choice on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s part, and that’s just fine.
In fact, in many places, his word choice is lyrical. I think Fitzgerald had an excellent grasp of the English language and wrote very carefully. Some of his descriptions, especially his choice of adjectives, are vivid and beautiful. You get the impression that The Great Gatsby isn’t just a book written by whimsy – it’s a cautiously crafted tale stripping away the baubles and shine behind the upper class and their frivolities to see the rot beneath (or so the author believes). The satirical tale is interesting, but the players are tedious. It’s complicated, because even though I appreciate Fitzgerald’s style here… I don’t enjoy it.
There are other ways that I feel like this novel doesn’t really hold up as well as it did at the time it was published. For one, a great deal of the dialogue in the first chapter is about Tom Buchanan’s beliefs that the white race is superior and must protect its place as the master of the species of some other paraphrased bullshit like that. Okay, so, on one hand, I understand that this language is here specifically to show exactly how self-important Tom considers himself (and indeed, his proclamations are mocked by Daisy). It’s an example of the superiority complex Fitzgerald is portraying on the family, but if this novel had been written today, this would have been handled differently. I hope. And I wish I could say racism was only present in the villain, but Fitzgerald has a most unfortunate habit of describing minor characters by their race. Even Nick, our narrator, refers to his maid only as “The Fin”.
I think there’s a definite lack of chemistry between any of the characters. This is in the writing style as well – there’s more focus on the social aspects than inter-personal relationships. It’s a bit slow at times and almost always pretty cringy. The one relationship I did like and did seem to have a chance is Jordan and Nick, and Nick went and ruined that by being a snob and Jordan ruined it by being narcissist.
While I don’t think The Great Gatsby deserved the one star I gave it on my first read, I also don’t think it’s a remarkable book. I’m sure it was a great satire in the time it was written, but generally it’s a messy book written by a jaded man and I’m all set.