book reviews | fiction

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

If you Google “American Literature” , chances are you will come across classics such J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’, Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingird’ and of course F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. However, accolades for Fitzgerald’s masterpiece were few and far between at the time of the book’s release in 1925 and it wasn’t until after his death that the book began to grow in popularity and come to be duly realised as the literary classic that it is.

Set in the 1920’s Jazz age in a fictional village on Long Island, The Great Gatsby surrounds¬† ‘Jay Gatsby’ a mysterious millionaire who throws lavish parties and celebrates his wealth. The book is narrated by his new neighbour Nick Carraway who has recently moved from the mid-west and who comes to be intrigued by Gatsby. The story intertwines with Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan who we learn along the way is Gatsby’s long lost first love and still the object of his desire, Daisy’s husband Tom who is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson and Jordan Baker with whom Nick begins a relationship with.

The story is complex and compelling and to go into any more depth with the storyline would mean almost rewriting the book here.

The main theme within the story explores the downside of the Great American Dream of self made success, and the pursuit of wealth and happiness. Fitzgerald’s ideas seem well beyond his time examining the ugliness of greed and wealth and the pursuit of happiness through materialistic means. Fitzgerald is even heralded in hindsight as predicting downfall of roaring twenties America and the infamous stock-market crash of 1929.

The beautiful narrative as seen through the eyes of Nick Carraway brings the reader into the story as if sitting along side Nick and experiencing each moment. Fitzgerald has a way of exploring the setting and idealistic world of Jay Gatsby beautifully. Truly opera for the eyes.

The Great Gatsby is a book that will ignite your thoughts and often cloud your heart. Beautiful but tragic. Fictional yet so real. It will encourage you to explore human nature and your own sense of self and what you hold dear.

I remember reading the book when I was in my early 20’s, and although impressed, I was a little wet behind the ears and lacking in life experience to truly understand the complexity and message within the words. Now, reading it in preparation to see the upcoming Baz Lurhman film, the book it has hit me in the heart.

And although I am not a huge fan of literary fiction, this book holds a special place and I feel a better person for having revisited it.

As for the film, I was so very excited to hear that Mr. Lurhman was working on this project, and the cast including Leonardo Di Caprio as Gatsby, Toby McGuire as Nick Carraway, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, sets up wonderful expectation.

However, after reading the book again I am feeling a little apprehensive. I want the film to do the book justice, I want the cast to stay true to the original characters and the way my imagination has created them, I want the message to be subtle yet effective and I want the simplicity and complexity of the narrative to complement the film. Will I be disappointed?

It is the old book v’s film v’s book dilemma. I have been disappointed before, but I have also been pleasantly surprised. I just hope it is the latter in this case.

Have you read The Great Gatsby or plan to see the movie?
How do you feel about the book v’s film dilemma?