Review of ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald

For some readers, this is the best novel of all time. The great American classic. It wasn’t successful in Fitzgerald’s lifetime but has since gained in popularity. When I read it a few years ago, I was underwhelmed. There didn’t seem to be much substance to this short novel and I wasn’t sure what it was trying to say. However, I recently found a DVD of the recent film adaptation in a charity shop and decided I had to re-read the book first. Fortunately I appreciated it more this time, although it will never be a favourite classic.

Set in 1920s America, the story is narrated by Nick Carraway, who has moved east to try his luck with selling bonds. He lives in the fictional town of West Egg in Long Island. In a mansion next door lives the mysterious Jay Gatsby, who holds legendary wild parties. Nick is drawn into spending time with him. Then there are Tom and Daisy Buchanan, terribly rich and unhappily married. Something tragic is going to happen. Meanwhile, Nick is casually dating the sporty and cynical Jordan Baker, a friend of Daisy’s. Nick is a rather mundane character. He tends to go with the flow. The drama of the story is told through his memories and observations.

I interpreted the novel as a critique of the American Dream and a portrait of the 1920s, glittering, shallow, crooked, reckless. There are obvious symbols everywhere. Daisy Buchanan is a fascinating character and I think if this novel had been written today, we would have had more of her perspective in the story. Gatsby himself is not likeable but he can be admired and pitied. I wasn’t keen on how very minor characters flitted in and out of the text, or were mentioned but didn’t actually appear. It’s too short a novel for that. The dialogue is one of the strengths, as to me it seems both realistic and sparkling.

First published in 1925. This edition is by Penguin Modern Classics, 2000, with a long unreadable introduction by Tony Tanner.

14 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald”

  1. I read this a couple of years ago, and I felt quite underwhelmed by it also. I enjoyed it but not as much as I had expected to. I’m not sure if I had built it up too much before I read it. I haven’t watched the film adaptation, the book didn’t resonate enough with me to prompt me to give it a watch. Great review as always πŸ™‚

    1. I think being underwhelmed by this book is quite a common experience. The more famous a book is, the more we expect from it! The film was decent enough but I wouldn’t re-watch.
      Thank you πŸ™‚

  2. I love this book but I studied it at school which I think has given me a greater appreciation for it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the film adaptation but I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio!

    Another great write up πŸ™‚

    1. Hmm, yes sometimes having studied a book can let you enjoy it more (and sometimes the opposite!). I’m not much of a diCaprio fan, but he was OK in the film.
      Thank you πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks! Yes the characters were not at all likeable. However, maybe their selfishness was meant to be a reflection of the age.

  3. Great review and good to know what to expect πŸ™‚ I still haven’t read this, I tried when I was at school but could never get into it. I enjoyed watching the film and I’m still planning on tackling this book, but I won’t expect too much otherwise I’ll be disappointed…The Great CATtsby on the other hand, now that was a good book! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ 😸😸

    1. LOL! Every book can be improved by having cats as the characters πŸ˜‰
      At least it’s a short book, so if you do try it, there are not many pages to get through πŸ˜€

  4. Great review! It’s interesting that you mention that if it had been written today we would see Daisy in a different light and I think you are right. For me she was one of the most interestintg characters but the writing for me was a little off in this book though I did enjoy the movie adaptation.

    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚
      Yes she’s an interesting character and maybe someone could write (or has probably written) a book from her perspective.
      I’ve only tried one other Fitzgerald book (Tender is the Night – which I DNFed) so I can’t say if the writing style is typical or not. Maybe I should try his short stories.

    1. I did find the narration compelling, and I would read it again, but it’s not a favourite classic with me either.

  5. I had to laugh at your phrase, “long unreadable introduction”. Some introductions are exactly that, aren’t they?

    I love the writing in this book, although I find most characters annoying. I have little patience for Fitzgerald’s self-absorbed doomed heroes overall, but I admire his skill in The Great Gatsby.

    I enjoyed your review very much. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you for your kind comments πŸ™‚
      I have an English Lit degree and so I have read my fair share of introductions to classics – often they aren’t very helpful and I remember reading other things by Tony Tanner and not really getting them either.
      I’m certain to re-read The Great Gatsby, so it’s staying on my shelf. Maybe I’ll like it better each time I read it πŸ˜‰

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