I know, I read 2 books in one day because I’m a hard core book nerd. Ahh Gatsby. I shall start by saying that I love 1920s literature. Modernism, that’s my jam if you like. But I had only ever read British Modernist literature, T.S. Eliot etc, and I was interested if American literature from the same era would be any different. I had also seen the Baz Luhrmann film not too long before because you know I’m a Costume student and I love the 1920s and I had been waiting to see the collaboration with Miuccia Prada for a really long time. But this is a book blog not a film blog so let’s get back to business.
It was surprisingly short. That was my lasting impression because usually when you read a book after seeing a film there is all this extra detail that you discover and think “but that’s so important why did they leave that out?”. Not the case with Gatsby, everything makes it into the film. This means that the story feels quite compact and I read it in a few hours. It is almost like this book is one of Jay Gatsby fabulous parties, jam-packed with splendour and glamour but then as the night wears on everything goes a bit pear shaped and you’re left with one hell of a hangover.
In comparison to other similar books I have read, Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, what strikes me about Gatsby is that everything seems so new. Even the Bauchanans who are supposedly ‘old money’ feel modern and there seems to be less spiting the previous generation through bitterness about the First World War and more having fun for the sake of it; because you’re rich and bored and unhappily married. It all feels more trivial and superficial. Plus the main thread of the story is a romance, which I isn’t my favourite, and I think it effects the tone as it becomes sort of sickly sweet.
I must admit though that I love the ending. Just as I was starting to get a bit sick of sentimentality there is an enormous shift of pace and atmosphere and for me it makes the entire book. I know Gatsby is loved for its glamour and decadence but I have seen it done better in other novels and so for me what I liked about this book was the futility at the end. Gatsby never reaches the green light in spite of dedicating his entire life to achieving it and as a result he was never happy. Fitzgerald unashamedly makes a social point at the end with one of the greatest closing lines ever written and in doing so he made me very glad that I read the first half of the novel.
Would recommend to: if you’re ok reading a book just because it’s a classic.