The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald Review

It’s taken me nearly three months to get thorough this book! I honestly thought I would finish it about 2 and a half months ago, and that I might have even finished Catch 22 by now, and started another book, by that’s not how it worked. Life got in the way, and I just wasn’t interested enough in the book to really want to firstly read it, but also post about it. Do I regret choosing to read it? No. I’m happy I read it, it is after all a ‘classic’, and it is claimed to be one of the ‘best’ books ever, so I’m happy I’ve read it, and been able to experience it for myself. Not all books are going to be to my liking, that’s a fact, but I do like reading some books I’m not going to like. Which sounds really stupid, but what I’m saying is that I’m happy to read a book like this, to experience it, and be able to form an opinion on it myself, even if I don’t like it, I have at least read it, and know what it’s about.

So clearly I’ve been pretty negative and harsh with the book, maybe unnecessarily harsh, and maybe that has clouded my judgement of the book. I think also, the fact that someone whose opinion I do take with high regard, commented on how much they despised the book, may have also tainted my attitude towards the book. However, I am still of the opinion, that I don’t like the book, it doesn’t appeal to me, and I personally don’t think it’s overly good. Having said that, this does not mean the book isn’t good, or that it isn’t a ‘classic’ because clearly it is regarded as that, I just don’t quite agree.

The main ‘attraction’ to the book seems to be something about it capturing the longing for the ‘American Dream’, and I guess it’s also an early sort of ‘rags to riches tale’ (which I think is the American Dream). Gatsby had nothing, and made something of himself, and got somewhere in the world. But, it’s not a very good tale of the wonders of the American Dream, since after all, Gatsby basically died alone, and he had lost Daisy, his one love. So maybe it’s a cautionary tale about life, and about what you really should be seeking.

I’ve read the introduction of my orange Popular Penguins edition of the book written by Toby Tanner, and I think this helped me come to a slightly different understanding of the book. Or at least, I came to appreciate the opinion of other people in regards to the book, doesn’t mean I know adore the book, or that I want to re-read it (having said that, I do feel tempted to try it again in the future, to see whether down the road I’ll like it more, but there’s plenty of other books I want to read first!). I think it’s perfectly fine that other people really adore this book, but I just don’t get it, it isn’t appealing to me. And maybe that could be partly because I’m not American so it doesn’t quite have the appeal of the American Dream story, but, I’m not sure.

To me, the book was dull, boring, and full of unlikeable characters. I honestly didn’t like a single character out of the book, however, I guess this could be a ‘pessimistic’ view on the world, that in life, there aren’t likeable characters, and that sometimes literature makes life to be something grander than it really is. And I didn’t even find the writing particularly good, it was often confusing. There were times where the imagery was alright, but, if you want imagery you should check out Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (I’ve posted about that extensively)

I also think with the classics, there are always those people who read the book, don’t get it, don’t really enjoy it, but know that they ‘should love it’ because it’s a ‘classic’, so just go along with it. I guess it also creates a sort of prejudice towards the book from the outset, and either you are going to gloss past the bits you don’t really like, and think “oh I must have missed something that everyone else got, so I’ll just think it’s alright” or you are going to go in the opposite direction and think “well, this is not at all living up to my expectations”. And I think I fall into the latter group a bit, I expected more from the book, and was let down nearly from the beginning.

In the introduction Tanner makes reference to the fact that time is a big part of the novel (apparently over 400 times a ‘time word’ was used), and that Gatsby seems to be trying to reclaim the past (Daisy), and no matter what he does, he is unsuccessful, the past is always out of reach. And I think that is a theme of the book, and the message is pretty clear. Also in the introduction, Tanner suggested that Fitzgerald, like Gatsby, actually rejected his parents, and had the lofty idea that he was somehow adopted, and his parents were something more. Okay, every child tends to have this thought at least once, but, it’s just kidding yourself, and playing out a fantasy. And to be honest, I think that is what this book is for Fitzgerald, one of his fantasies.

Would I say it’s the best book out there? Hell no. There was a reason it didn’t start out successful, it only became big after it was mass published for soldiers in World War 2, and then was set in the American curriculum. Would I recommend people read it? Yes. Yes I would, people should read it, and make their own opinion, and I’ll be interested to hear what you think about it!

So what am I doing next on this blog? JK Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling!!!!! Also more posts about some other classic books I’ve been reading, and Bookish Topic Tuesday continues as always!


5 thoughts on “The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald Review

  1. “To me, the book was dull, boring, and full of unlikeable characters. I honestly didn’t like a single character out of the book”

    I was very surprised to see you had written that because it reads as if it is word-for-word from so many reviews of The Casual Vacancy I have read. I have found unlikable characters do not seem to bother me and strike out in a work (with the exception of The Chronicles of Riddick, but then I don’t think that movie has any redeeming qualities at all), yet even I was filled with contempt for Fats and desire to throw the book away after the scene where his parents confront him and then leave and he has the flashback about hitting Colin with a football, yet it didn’t seem to bother you at all. I never heard you so much as mention them being unlikable.

    It really just furthers my opinion that it is all opinions rather than the sort of objectivity most people seem to believe exists (with the exception of works created specifically to be bad).

    Also, in relation to what you said about the author of your book’s introduction analyzing time in the book, my father told me that the professor in college who assigned him the book was obsessed with finding symbolism, analyzing the meaning of the color green, which he (my father) considered boring.

    Even if he has read it and didn’t think it to be that bad, he has no interest in reading it again, even though he has interest in watching the Luhrmann movie. So one can’t say it strikes a chord with ALL Americans whatever the case may be.

    I leave you with one final thing I thought you should know: The time on this post is messed up so it is placed and read from the date as if it were posted before the prior two.

    1. I do find that an interesting link between Great Gatsby and The Casual Vacancy, and I guess there are similarities. I have to say that for me, in the Great Gatsby, even though they were utterly unlikeable, they didn’t even seem conceivably real, I couldn’t imagine there being people like Tom, Gatsby, Nick, Daisy or Jordan. They just felt like fake characters. Maybe that’s because it was written 90 odd years ago, so I find it hard to at all relate to any of the characters, or see any sort of similarity between people I know and them, or indeed myself and any of them. While in The Casual Vacancy, it makes sense, it’s a tale I can understand, and believe. Not necessarily relate to (because there are some horrific things that happen in them, that I haven’t experienced) but there are characteristics of the characters I can relate to, and I can see and have seen in other people and myself. And honestly I don’t think the Casual Vacancy was that devoid of likeable characters, they were real characters, who were flawed, just like people are in life. The difference here is, that in Gatsby, they aren’t real. All of them I think are not only ‘not real’ because of the time difference, but I think even in the time period, they aren’t real, they are all acting, and all playing a part.

      I hated Fats, he was a terrible person, but, at the same time, I don’t find him unlikeable, in the end, there is a sort of redemption for all of the characters, there is a chance that they aren’t all bad, they aren’t all evil, they are just flawed humans like all of us, trying to make their way through the world. In Gatsby, I see them more like flawed figurines, trying to create their path in life, not get through life, but make life work around them.

      I don’t really think objectivity can exist in humans, we are all bound by prejudices and social pressures to conform, we all have past experiences which shape our attitudes towards things, and that’s the way it is always going to be. But that’s a good thing, because it means that you and I both read the same book, and come out of it with different appreciations, and different messages, it makes things interesting to see how everyone takes the book.

      The green light in Gatsby was another thing that was mentioned in the introduction, but the symbolism to me felt a little scarce. Even though I like analysing books, and find it somewhat interesting to draw symbolism and deeper meaning from them, there is a limit, where you are just looking for symbolism where it just doesn’t really exist. I think the internet sums it up pretty well, when it says, what your English teacher says about blue curtains “the blue curtains symbolises his internal struggle and depression”, and what the author really meant “the curtains were just blue curtains!”

      Thanks for all your comments on Gatsby! And thanks for telling me about the date, all fixed now!

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