There you go, my opinion of The Great Gatsby summed up in a single word. Or to expand: Did not like.
I wanted to like it, I’ve heard great things about it and I have one friend in particular who is so keen on the 1920’s that she’s theming her wedding after that time period so for her sake I moved Gatsby up the pecking order and tried to like it. But I didn’t.
I found the writing style very hard to get to grips with, I don’t know what was wrong with it exactly but I found that I could read for pages with no idea what was going on and then I’d go back and reread them only to have the same thing happen again. I think it didn’t help that the prose tended to jump about a bit characters would get the briefest of introductions but then fifty pages later you’d be expected to remember who they were and why they had featured (and the book is only 110 pages long). Or time would slip so that you’d be at once in the past and the present without any real clarity on why.
The characters themselves also really infuriated me. I suppose they were the Made in Chelsea of their time, lots of money with no clear indication of how they came by it and no responsibilities that can’t be shirked for a day or three of drinking and driving about the country on a whim. That entire lifestyle is alien territory to me and I find it utterly mystifying as to how anyone can live that way. So I probably never stood much of a chance at bonding with these characters but still.
Having said that our narrator Nick Carraway was also a bit of an outsider. Caught up by mere proximity to Gatsby and a connection with the Buchanans he is pulled along in their whirlwind of champagne and excess to the bitter end. I quite enjoy the outsider narrator theme as it gives the common yokel a point of reference within the book and someone to hide behind when it all gets a bit much so I did like Nick. Right up to the point where he suddenly realised that he’d forgotten all about his birthday on account of being taken to New York and forced to participate in wanton renting of hotel parlours and drinking of mint juleps. I mean really, who lives this way and why?!
There’s a jumpyness to the whole novel which reminded me a lot of On the Road another book I hated (rant here) and to a lesser extent The Secret History which I enjoyed but felt a similar disconnect to (more balanced review here). I think it was this nervous energy which meant that despite it being very short I found Gatsby quite exhausting to read and at entirely the other end of the spectrum from the previously reviewed Midnight’s Children. Here’s hoping my next review will be more positive!
I was meaning to make this a brief post and suggest that for more expansive reviewing you read a review by my fellow Gatsby-hater Becky but I seem to have gone on a while. However I thoroughly recommend her review as it is better thought out and much more entertaining than this driveling stream of consciousness. Read it here.