43. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

4672Nope.

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.

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8 responses to “43. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

  1. I didn’t like Gatsby the first time I read it either, but then after reading a load of other Fitzgerald books, I realised what a beautiful writer he is and then I went back and re read it and really appreciated it, but Fitz is very style over substance, so I can totes understand you not liking it.

    • Interesting, is there anything in particular you’d recommend? I guess I’m pretty much a substance person, it’s the story I’m interested in not the way of telling it. I’d like to think I can appreciate style as well but the further I get through the list, the more I realise that’s not true!

      • Haha! I personally really liked Tender is the Night, it’s so poetically written and really really beautiful but it is all style over substance! The Beautiful and the Damned is good too, but again, is all flowery language and not much story! I think his writing style was just something I had to get used to because I’d not read anything like it before, but once I did I fell a bit in love with it and now Fitz is one of my favourites! It’s not for everyone though, Gatsby is probably his least flowery book.

      • I remember seeing a post where you extolled his virtues. Maybe I could get into him if I really tried and I might look out for those but only as a side project 😉 I didn’t actually find him too flowery, I’m not sure what it is that I didn’t get on with it just didn’t do it for me. Plus I did find the characters really annoying and I think that’s probably what had me turned off tbh.

      • There isnt a single likeable character in there tbh, which was one of the reasons I didnt like it first time around. I think I like scott and zelda more than the books themselves, but it was much better on a second reading!

  2. ‘the Made in Chelsea of their time’ – ha! Love it. I’ve never watched Made in Chelsea so I couldn’t possibly comment, but it sounds about right judging from the adverts that always bombard my TV screen!

    Agree with everything you’ve said here, especially the bits on the authors writing, that was the biggest let down for me I think. Yet, at the same time when I took sentences in isolation I thought they were beautiful. It’s so odd.

    Re what Leah has said above, I really hope she’s right because Gatsby was part of a 3 books set I bought with Tender is the Night and The Beautiful and the Damned. Somehow I haven’t had the courage to pick them up yet, can’t imagine why. They’re also a lot longer than Gatsby, gulp.

    Thank you for the kind shout out, I’m glad you thought my post was entertaining. 😀

    • Sadly I have to admit to being a Made in Chelsea watcher although I don’t like any of them either!

      His writing is very good and I do like a lot of his phrasing, I really don’t know what it was that made me turn off but I just couldn’t get into it at all 😦

      Maybe more Fitzgerald should be one of your New Year’s resolutions?! For the purely selfish reason that I’d be interested to know if Leah’s right haha.

  3. Pingback: Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award! | The Perks of Being a Bookworm

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