The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Book: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Release date: Out Now
First published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is now considered to be the epitome of the great American novel. It’s a classic, up there with Of Mice and Men and For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the Modern Library lauded it as the second-best English language novel of the 20th century.
All this critical acclaim begs the question of why we’re reviewing it in the First Choice Book Club. Our answer is – it’s currently being made into a Hollywood movie. And if you haven’t read it yet (and you’re the type who has to read a book before you see the movie adaptation) now’s the time to strike while the iron’s hot – the film’s not out until December and chances are you’ll be too busy Christmas shopping to read the book then.
The background for the story is the social scene of the roaring 20s, when the rich and beautiful used their trust funds and inheritances to live lives of wild parties, lunchtime martinis and wine at 5. The story is narrated by a man called Nick Carraway, a World War 1 veteran, who is learning the bond business in New York at the same time as living it up in Long Island’s north shore.
The book tells the story of his acquaintance and eventual friendship with a man called Jay Gatsby, who is at the top of the party-throwing hierarchy in Nick’s Long Island neighbourhood. The story is peppered with illicit affairs, revenge and murder.
The way Fitzgerald writes divides you as a reader. On one hand, his prose makes the exuberance of the 20s 3D on the page, and it makes you wish you’d been there. You want to change dresses three times a day, as you hop from soiree to soiree – like one of the book’s mistresses, Myrtle. And you want to call someone a ‘terrible bore’, because their conversation isn’t keeping you entertained.
On the other hand, though, Fitzgerald has a way of making you feel sorry for the characters. For all their riches and the luxury of their lifestyles, most of them are deeply dissatisfied. Ultimately, their wealth, power and popularity are unfulfilling for them. And, in their pursuit of these values, they are denying themselves the things they really want, like love, friendship and morality.
It’s in creating this second emotion in you that Fitzgerald becomes the standard-setting novelist that he is. He isn’t just telling a story in The Great Gatsby’s pages, he’s writing a damning commentary on the American dream. And, when this fact hits you, you’re bowled over.
If you like this, try this… Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf