There was a film that came out in 2013, won two Oscars (Best Achievement in Costume Design and Best Achievement in Production Design), and had a serious number of talented actors in it. But it was based on a book, which if you haven’t read it, you’re missing out. So, starting with a quick summary of the plot (without spoilers), I’ll explain to you why I enjoyed it, and why you should read it.
Mr Nick Carraway is happily living his life in West Egg, Long Island, despite the magnificent parties that frequent his neighbour, Gatsby’s house. Jay Gatsby is extravagant, mysterious, and needs Carraway’s help. Somehow, the slightly withdrawn Nick becomes friends with Jay Gatsby, and finds himself involved in a twisted love story, where affairs are flaunted and loyalties are tested. A book that’s received awards and praise worldwide, it’s eligible for the title of a “Great American Novel”.
I absolutely adored this book. I read it while driving around the mountains in Corsica, and despite the beautiful scenery surrounding me, I couldn’t help but wish I was in the 1920s, in the Jazz Age, dancing at one of Gatsby’s splendid parties.
As an avid reader, I’m usually tough to impress. Despite this, I was totally blown away by The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald has a unique writing style that I found enthralling. Through minimal volume, he has very rich and vivid description. In addition, he addresses some rather major themes – the loyalty required in friendship, the web of lies that many people spin around themselves, and the way that victims would rather do nothing about their current situations rather than confront the issues in their lives.
The book is written brilliantly. Through Nick Carraway’s first person narration, it gives a different view of a story that is based on two other people. He seems much more reserved, contained than the people around him, but Fitzgerald still manages to express the sheer bounce and joy in the parties at Gatsby’s spectacular mansion. In addition to this, there’s also snippets of view into Gatsby’s personality himself, showing him not to be as extravagant as his parties always seem.
A love story gone wrong, it flows through the book and ends neatly, without rush like some books. A few unanswered questions remain, and there’s a sense of irritation at the injustice at the end of the story, but that’s how a good book should end, isn’t it? It’s a tale that reminds us of the effects we have on other people’s lives, how lasting our impressions can be on people.
Above all, this story shows what happens when we hold onto a dream for too long, how it eats away at us and may be our downfall. A reminder of cruel reality in the face of dreams and wishes, it’s enchanting, captivating and interesting.
A 7/7, for being a brilliant book that retains its style and voice despite being 90 years old.
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I’ve read the book and seen all the extant previous adaptations, and thought it was superb. The Redford version was far too self-conscious ‘classic adaptation’ and soporific: more Jane Austen-tedious than Jazz-Age. The 1949 film was hampered by the Hays Code, but Alan Ladd was excellent in it, and indeed, DiCaprio conveyed similar qualities in the new version. I also admire the 2000 BBC adaptation (Toby Stephens and Mira Sorvino) but of the cinema versions, this is the best.