Book ReviewThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
by Rachel Kersey

Originally published in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved American tale, The Great Gatsby, has been adapted for computer games, books, television shows, theater, music, radio, opera, and of course film. Baz Luhrmann’s recent adaptation for the silver screen stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, and Amitabh Bachhan and opened in theaters on May 10, 2013. The revival of this classic brings the book back to the forefront, and many people are revisiting this work that Fitzgerald is perhaps best known for.

The Great Gatsby is the story of Jay Gatsby, a fabulously wealthy bachelor who is known for hosting extravagant parties at his sumptuous, Long Island mansion. It is the story of Gatsby’s wholehearted devotion to the lovely Daisy Buchanan. Narrated by Gatsby’s neighbor, Nick Carraway, it is the story of the observations of a man “inclined to reserve all judgments” upon the life of a man with “an extraordinary gift for hope” and “some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life”.

Most of The Great Gatsby is set in Long Island, New York in the fictional neighborhoods of east egg and west egg during the summer of 1922. This places the story in the heart of the Jazz Age, a time in American history where jazz music flourished, women’s rights was at a high point, and a generally youthful spirit permeated the atmosphere. Ironically, these things that characterize this era of history are almost completely absent from the novel. Domestic abuse, unrequited love, Daisy’s traditional sense of practicality, and the strange reservedness with which Gatsby conducts himself amidst the unabated hedonism that surrounds him all bear resemblance to ages past. Perhaps it is this juxtaposition that brings readers back again and again.

Jay Gatsby is the undisputed protagonist of this tragic tale, though it is told from another’s perspective. Nick Carraway, the much-less-affluent narrator, opens the book with a simple explanation of his history of observation. He claims to suspend all judgment as an observer, and yet the book is marked with his obvious disapproval of those he observes. However, his disapproval only serves to highlight the profoundly genuine characteristics of the mysterious Jay Gatsby as well as the profoundly superficial characteristics of many of the other, more straighforward characters.

I read this book in one day and I didn’t like it. I originally thought it was terribly boring and I couldn’t understand why this ever was considered to be a must-read. It was only when writing this review that I realized how bittersweet the story truly is. It is a beautiful portrait of unconditional and sacrificial love that endures until the very end. Anyone can enjoy it, and everyone will learn a different lesson from the story. It’s not a fast-paced page-turner, nor is it a story with a satisfying grand finale, but the prose is exquisite and Fitzgerald did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the time. And for those who don’t enjoy it the first time, a second reading often proves more agreeable.Truly sweet and sour.

The Great Gatsby gets three stars…for now.

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