“…among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby has been on my TBR list since dinosaurs roamed the earth. The 2017 Back to the Classics challenge finally prompted me to take it off the shelf. I feel completely unqualified to write a review about a book so well-read and discussed and adapted to film no less than five times. What else could I possibly contribute? I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about the social context of the story. That’s where its fascination lies for me.
The Great Gatsby is written beautifully and evokes the restless energy of the jazz age with ease. It’s visually attractive, exciting, thought provoking, tragic and timeless. I’ve seen both the 1974 (Robert Redford & Mia Farrow) film, and Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation, so I came to the book with a pretty good idea of the storyline. (I think Luhrmann did a great job, even if the first half hour did drag on forever.)
I am fascinated by the period between the two world wars. I read a lot of books written or set in this time. Dizzying materialism, prosperity and hope, which turns to poverty and despair in the Depression. There were also huge social changes, especially for women, during this period. The Great Gatsby was written in the early 1920’s, fresh from the war, optimism abounding.
But it didn’t immediately set the world on fire. Its popularity has instead grown over the decades with the benefit of hindsight. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ability to chronicle the mood of a generation and provide a historical snapshot is why it is now considered one of the greatest classics of American literature. It covers themes including power, greed, justice, betrayal and social stratification with interesting characters, each representing different status, dreams and dreams broken.
Fitzgerald’s writing is exquisite. You can almost feel the wealth dripping like champagne and strings of pearls from the pages. The music, the drinking, the lazing around being bored, the lack of moral responsibility and the folly of trying to cling to the past are all so viscerally present that it’s impossible (for me anyway) not to be emotionally absorbed. Although written before the Depression, The Great Gatsby with its unbridled excesses was almost prophetic in its conclusion.
Growing up in Australia, it’s rare that this book makes it onto the school curriculum. I’m quite glad because I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as a teenager. I think you have to have ‘lived life’ a little.
The Great Gatsby is a short book and many have wondered if therein lies its success. Perhaps. It certainly doesn’t need anything added. I read it in in two evenings and I’m sure I’ll read it again one day, if for no other reason than to immerse myself in the language and extravagance of it all.
I don’t know a huge amount about the lives of F.Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, but after reading The Great Gatsby I’d like to rectify this. I’d love to hear recommendations of further reading….