The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4 stars – I liked it, it was good
I first read this in high school, and only recently bought a copy for myself to reread, which I began on a whim upon finding an audiobook version on Spotify. I began listening/reading along on September 25, 2022.
Finished on September 25, 2022.
A Love Story Struck Short by Tragedy
In the early twenties after the Great War, Nick Carraway moves to West Egg in New York to begin in the bond-selling business, and he finds himself the neighbour of the illustrious character, Jay Gatsby. Through a string of coincidences, he finds that Gatsby is an old acquaintance of his cousin, Daisy, and whom with he wants to be reunited, so Nick helps them along. He is a wallflower to many a conversation, including the affair of his cousin’s husband, Tom, with another woman, of his cousin’s time with Gatsby, and of Jordan Baker, a famous golfer Nick falls for.
As I mentioned, I first read this book in high school (who hasn’t?) but I think I wasn’t as equipped to appreciate the story as I am now, being able to look at it from a storyteller’s perspective. I thought it clever that the story of Jay Gatsby was told not by the man himself but by his neighbour, who is writing to the reader well after the events of the book, though with the information of chronological self in each new scene. And in this, we are introduced to Gatsby as first the host of over-the-top parties, and over time he becomes less superficial of a character as he shows more and more of himself to Nick. I also think that I could further appreciate this book because of listening to the audiobook version, which was well-read by The Free Audiobooks on Spotify. I was able to listen as I followed along in my copy, hearing the reader as if Nick himself was telling the story in my ear. I highly recommend reading books this way, and I will continue to do so with all the classic books (which have free audiobook readings) this way.
I enjoy how Gatsby’s character is revealed to us—in pieces—leaving us wondering about who he really is. His guests all tell wild rumours about him at his parties, but none know the truth and therefore can’t prove or disprove any claims, leaving Gatsby as a wild and unknowable creature himself. It is only through Nick, being his one true friend, that we learn the inevitable truth about him and how he came to be. This, I think, is a great storytelling device, as usually the main character is learning about a mystery or is introduced to a new world. This is why stories always fall into the two formats: a person goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. Nick could be that stranger who comes to town, but a better argument could be made for him being the person who goes on a journey, as he moves to New York for just that summer and journeys through the life of Jay Gatsby, both past and present.
The rest of the cast of characters, Tom, Lucy, Jordan, Myrtle, Meyer, and George, all play their parts well, though no one seems to know all the information as Nick does. I remember my English teacher once remarked that though Nick is a character himself in the book, he is much more like the impersonal narrator as if he is the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg watching and judging characters but not interfering much with the events.
My one glaring critique of this book is nothing to do with the story, but with the copy I purchased. While reading other books by the same publisher, I noticed small errors here and there, but while following along with the book being read aloud, they are even more difficult to ignore. Missing words and spaces, or misplaced characters stand out to me. They don’t exactly take away from my enjoyment of the book, but I thought I’d mention them here. Even though my copy is beautiful to look at, if you’re the type to put down a book with typos, I recommend getting a different edition.
As for the writing style and quality—what can I say? The book is written in first-person and flows smoothly. You can actually feel like Nick is talking to you, the reader, about his observations over that summer. He gives brief details over some scenes, but dives right into others, recounting even the dialogue (as in typical books). The style certainly stands the test of time, and the quality of Fitzgerald’s writing is top-notch!
This book is a much-beloved classic and succeeds in capturing the liveliness of the roaring 20s (now a hundred years ago!). I recommend this book to everyone, specifically to those coming back to it after high school and able to look at it in a new light, as I have.
I also highly recommend watching the 2013 movie starring Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio. See the IMDb page here.
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