The Great Gatsby
Despite being a writer and book-eater since I was a kid, many were surprised to learn I had never actually set eyes upon The Great Gatsby. Of course I had heard all about it, and other English classes at school studied it, but it just never landed in my to-read pile. Until now.
I will say I’m glad I read it, and can see why it’s dubbed a timeless classic that is studied and critiqued far and wide. A heady, whirling depiction of the wealth and greed of the 1920s prohibition era in New York, The Great Gatsby truly is timeless, touching on societal concerns and issues that we can relate to now. Intermingled with a love story that ends in tragedy, The Great Gatsby was like an eerie, nostalgic dream that took me to a place I’d love to go… just for a little while, though.
The style of the book is truly enchanting. The colourful, whimsical images of Jay Gatsby’s glittering, Champagne-infused soirées complete with glamorous high fashion and roaring 20s passion are painted with charming prose. I wanted to be there. I wanted to drink Mint Juleps with them, to dance with them, and I definitely wanted a little taste of that seemingly carefree lifestyle of the era’s nouveau riche elite. The book transported me to a place that only existed in my olden-day fantasies and was written such that I knew how it felt to live in that time.
I suppose one of the elements I liked least about the book was that there wasn’t a whole lot of action going on inside; it was more about encapsulating the essence of that era (which it certainly did) and the fading American Dream. I also felt that although it was narrated in the first person, at times I was standing behind an emotional barrier, unable to well and truly connect with certain characters. I was (and still am) unsure whether to love, despise or pity them, as a mysterious veil seemed to shroud their true colours, masked by greed for money and a thirst for social status. Indeed the narrator, Nick Carraway didn’t so much keep to himself, but acted as a fly on the wall (or chandelier, for argument’s sake), so I didn’t really get to know much about him either. Perhaps this is a part of the book’s alluring charm, though.
The Great Gatsby is one of those books I will need to read again to reacquaint myself with the characters, become more emotionally involved, and pick up on the details I missed while trying to pick up on other details. I did find it a little awkward to read in that I was easily distracted and it didn’t hold my attention, though in the end I am glad I did and was able to take a step back in time with it.