Friday, January 3, 2014

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Summary: 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 1920's.

The Great Gatsby is a true classic of twentieth-century literature. (Summary from back of the book and image from http://www.chicagotribune.com/)

My Review:  I realize that as an English teacher I am supposed to love this book.  But, I don't.  American literature was not my favorite series class in college and reading this book reminded me of why:  American lit is a downer.  The endings are typically depressing, distressing, disturbing, or just dull.  Honestly, The Great Gatsby, for me, was all of these descriptors. I have a very hard time  reading books where I can't respect the characters, their decisions, and often their lack of logic, or caring of others.  Gatsby didn't fail in fulfilling any of these categories, and therefore, overall, was a flop for me.

And yet, I couldn't rate it entirely poorly, because it did have redeeming qualities.  Things I can appreciate:  the writing--it's beautifully crafted and carefully worded.  Unlike many authors, Fitzgerald is concise and deliberate.  I appreciate that.  He also leaves some deducing up to the reader--another aspect I respect.  I also appreciate period pieces.  It's fascinating to see how a specific group of people lived, moved, and expressed themselves during a certain time period.  I find it intriguing to see how the wealthy justified their actions, something we see all too often today in different forms. The 1920's wasn't an era I've ever spent much time researching and after reading this book I am interested to find out more about Jazz.

Here is my favorite quote that I feel epitomizes the book:
"I couldn't forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified.  It was all very careless and confused.  They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then they retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made...  I shook hands with him; it seemed silly not to, for I felt suddenly as though I were talking to a child."
For the sensitive reader:  Open discussion of extramarital affairs, one scene of abuse--between adulterers--and the last piece I won't give away here as it would ruin the ending, although it's probably not that bothersome if you're an adult as it's a tragedy of life that happens.

Rating:  3.5 stars

Sum it up:  A period piece depicting the wealthy of the 1920's.

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