One of the most anticipated movie releases of 2013 was The Great Gatsby. Being the imagination idealist that I am, I was determined to read the book before I watched the Leo DiCaprio starring adaptation on the big screen. I’m glad I stuck to my guns. Why? Because I am hoping that the movie will be better than the book.
The 1920s is an era sugar-coated in superficial beauty. You can’t help but picture a wave of long gowns, cropped hair and sparkling jewellery flickering from females as they stampede into a grand mansion ready for an extravagant party to begin. In other words: it is the American Dream. This is the scene that Fitzgerald provides us with. Was that what the roaring 20s were really like? I can’t tell for certain, but the irony is that Fitzgerald has fashioned this blissful vibe for us in The Great Gatsby, rather than us knowing the history from the fiction.
Our protagonist, Nick Carraway, is a Yale graduate who moves to the fictional town of West Egg in Long Island. Here he is reacquainted with his cousin Daisy Buchanan and he becomes friends with her ex-lover and his new next door neighbour, the mysterious Jay Gatsby.
I had attempted to read this book years ago but sadly was unable to hold my interest, mostly because it was a dull stream of consciousness from our narrator himself. Although, this time I was able to move forward from the tenth page as the novel eventually kicked into focus by introducing a group of characters to us.
For me the book lacked a lot of substance. Not an awful lot happened within the novel and I think it would have been a much more thrilling read if the book focused more on analysing Gatsby and his impressive parties. From popular culture (and of course the title) it is locked into your mind that the book will all be about this fascination over Gatsby. Yet, I believe that too little time was invested into developing the charm of this character. It is as though the fantastic idea is there, but it does not flare out onto the page with everything it is worth. Gatsby could have been great, but he lacked insight that I think DiCaptio may be able to pull off in the move.
Fitzgerald deployed a very unique voice to Carraway, one which I am pretty surprised has not been cloned relentlessly by recent authors. His thoughts and emotions were extremely poetic and I’m sure Fitzgerald’s views are expressed thorough him. The drawback was that I felt distanced to the novel as most of the characters (one in particular) weren’t very nice.
It is no wonder that The Great Gatsby remains a classic, more because of the themes it displays rather than the content. The Great Gatsby was the symbol of how the American Dream is not what it is cracked up to be. It shows that we don’t really know the people we are around and the people we love. Also, the book connects with nostalgic teenagers as it tackles social class structures as well as what it means to be young and reckless.
I am glad to have finally read The Great Gatsby, but it was not what I was expecting and it didn’t live up to the hype.