Saturday 1 January 2011

Retro Review: The Great Gatsby

A rare non-YA book for me to feature here, but Gatsby is so fantastic that it's worth recommending to all.

''No — Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.''

The above sentence is probably my favourite sentence in all of literature, although this book’s final sentence pushes it close. Gatsby, for readers who haven’t had the pleasure of encountering this classic novel before, is a story told by Nick Carraway, a young bachelor learning the bond business in New York City in 1922. But it’s not Nick’s story – it’s the story of Jay Gatsby, the mysterious young man who throws famously lavish parties, and of Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan, who Gatsby loved and thought he’d lost. As Nick observes helplessly, the title character obsessively pursues the girl despite her marriage to the obnoxious Tom, and events reach a tragic conclusion.

While I can read books properly first time around, I have a habit of skim-reading books when reading them for the 2nd or 3rd time, focusing on my favourite passages and skipping bits here and there. Gatsby is one of the very few exceptions to this. Despite having read it perhaps 8 or 9 times now, every time I pick it up I’m drawn so completely back into the world of the Jazz Age that I read it word for word. Oh, it helps that it’s incredibly short for its classic status – weighing in at somewhat under 200 pages, depending on your edition – but I honestly don’t think there’s a word out of place in the book. Gatsby is a beguiling main figure, Nick a perfect narrator – staunch and loyal, and unable to fully understand the passionate love Gatsby bears for Daisy – and Tom is a vile buffoon who provides a perfect villain. Fitzgerald’s descriptions have a way of transporting you fully into the place he’s writing about, whether it’s a massive party hosted by Gatsby or a well-fanned Forty-second Street cellar, and the quality of his writing is perfect.

If I could recommend just one classic book to readers young and old, in the hope they would fall in love with it, it would be this one every time. Highest possible recommendation to all.

Note: While I haven't been too keen on either of the adaptations I've seen of it previously, I live in hope that Baz Luhrmann's version, set to star Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire, can actually go some way to doing it justice.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I haven't read many classic books but maybe I should give this a try. You do make it sound appealing :)