Review: The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Read: 7
To Go: 93

Book List:
1. Best Friends Forever — Jennifer Weiner
2. The Very Picture of You — Isabel Wolff
3. First Impressions — Nora Roberts
4. Blithe Images — Nora Roberts
5. Beauty Plus Pity — Kevin Chong
6. The Drop — Michael Connelly
7. The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Top 50 38 Romantic Lines” read: 1/38

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.

Romantic quote: “He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete” (Fitzgerald 110-111).

If you recall, I’ve made an addition to my challenge this year: I’m reading 38 of the 50 books that correspond to the UK magazine Stylist‘s list of the “Top 50 Most Romantic Lines From Literature,” so I have to do a quick administrative note relating to that. When I finish a book that was on that list, I’ll put up the corresponding total (as you can see, it’s currently a measly 1/38). I also plan to include the quote itself that was deemed romantic (see above), and have added a category for you guys to search through, if you want to see those reviews exclusively: “‘Romantic Lines in Lit’ Books.”

Anyway, let’s proceed!

I’ve heard from several people, and virtually every memorable book list, that The Great Gatsby is one of the ultimates in literature. It was also implied by the challenge list that this would be romantic. After reading through it this evening, I have to be honest here and say I don’t get the appeal. However, I did like the romantic quote in question. It has a certain reality to it, of finally getting to the point where your fantasies are about to meet real life and you just have to hope that the real thing isn’t a let down.

I never really found myself fully engaged with the book — and by that I mean that while I finished it in one evening, I had to reread sentences several times because the meaning wasn’t sticking. It wasn’t gripping enough to make me sit up and take notice. I think this had to do with the way the narrative was put together. Not that I don’t like Nick Carraway, but I don’t think he was an ideal choice for narrator, because he was so limiting (and, quite frankly, dull). Having a story about Gatsby and Daisy come through the perspective of her second cousin left Fitzgerald with the challenge of conveying information about the Gatsby/Daisy relationship without making Nick a psychic, and often I was frustrated with how intangible the characters seemed because I was seeing them through a veil.

I also found The Great Gatsby to be one of those books where, even though several events take place, it feels like nothing is happening at all because the narrator is so flat. Nick Carraway has got to be the most bland, utterly unrelatable narrator I’ve ever come across. I just kept getting this vibe that he didn’t know how to emote even though so much was happening around him.

It’s not like the writing was bad. It was just that the story was challenging to bond with. I wasn’t feeling it. I hope that I haven’t terribly disappointed anyone.

Next book: I’ve got a couple of books from the Bronte sisters, so I’m going to read them both in the interest of getting a jump-start on the challenge within the challenge.

– Kelsey

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald

  1. Awesome that you’re trying to read so many books, very impressive indeed!
    And I know what you mean about The Great Gatsby, it’s an odd book, not what I expected either. I think it has grown on me after I finished it, which is a bit strange. I am very curious actually to see the upcoming movie based on it, to see if Leonardo DiCaprio can pull of Jay Gatsby (I suspect he can).

    • Thank you! I did it last year as well, so this is my second time riding the crazy train. 😛
      I’ve been getting similar opinions from other people, as well: that it’s something you have to sit on for a while before it grows on you. I guess I’ll see how I feel in a year or so, haha!
      Leonardo DiCaprio can pull off anything. :]

  2. Leo as Gatsby is brilliant. And I’m more of a fan of “I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” And Fitzy isn’t for everyone…he’s a diff voice!

    • I knew he would be. (There’s a part of me that believes, just a little bit, that the world revolves around Leonardo DiCaprio.)

      Curious: how come that’s your favourite line?

      I’m wondering if Fitzgerald is a “different voice” because he was one of the expat-in-Paris writers. I mean, the ones I know of are all a little different (or out-of-this-world insane, like Gertrude Stein). I’ll have to read Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and the like to see if my theory plays out correctly.

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