Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

My book club book for January was The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. For me, this is a reread as I read this book, and I think Tender is the Night, during my high school years.

It is interesting to see what you can and can't remember from reading a book that long ago. I remembered certain parts, but others, like the ending, had left me completely. I think most of us had read it previously but we all seemed to enjoy it. At least, no one admitted to not liking it in the group! We all agreed that it was nice to have a short book to read over the holidays. The next book that we are due to read is even shorter!

A lot of the ladies in my book club are a bit older than me, so we had lots of discussion about the Robert Redford movie. I think I have seen it, but I am not sure. I am thinking maybe I have just seen clips of it rather than the whole thing. There was also a brief discussion about the upcoming Baz Lurhman version which I think we will go and see together. I wasn't all that fussed about going to see it because I am not that much of a Leonardo Di Caprio fan, but I think I will now as a result of having read the book again.

One thing that I think definitely enhanced my enjoyment of reading this book right now was having watched Midnight in Paris a couple of times over the summer, not so much because it represented anything to do with the story but just the overall presentation of lifestyle. The Fitzgeralds weren't my favourite portrayal in the movie though. That honour belonged to Hemingway. So intense, so good!

I thought that for today's Teaser Tuesday I would share a few thoughts about some of the passages in the book. A couple of them are pretty famous quotes from the book, but I guess that is okay. There must be a reason why people like them.

One of the things I really liked about Fitzgerald's writing was his ability to provide a picture of a character without relying on description of the physical aspects of the character.

Here Daisy talks, and to me you can see just how much depth she has, or hasn't as the case may be:
"It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about - things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was god knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. "All right," I said. "I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in the world, a beautiful little fool."

"You see I think everything is terrible anyhow," she went on in a convinced way. "Everybody thinks so - the most advanced people. And I know. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything! Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom's, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. "Sophisticated - God, I'm sophisticated!"

And here, our narrator Nick talks about the title character - the great Gatsby!
He smiled understandingly - much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with the quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced - or seemed to face - the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished - and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he introduced himself I'd got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.
Even with just a few words, Fitzgerald conveys much. I particularly loved the second half of this sentence:

Then the valley of ashes opened out on both sides of us, and I had a glimpse of Mrs Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we went by.
I know a lot of people don't really like this book because of the shallowness of the characters and to a degree the plot, but this didn't actually bother me. I am pretty sure that the idle rich lifestyle that is portrayed in the novel would be familiar to some people even now. Maybe the toys that the rich and famous get to play with are different but the fundamental humanness of these characters is never far from the surface, despite the fact that they are the kind of humans that most of us wouldn't necessarily want to associate with.

I couldn't forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made....
And, the best place it seems to finish up this series of quotes:

"They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together!"

This may well have been a prompt that I needed to both revisit Tender is the Night and also to read some of the books that I haven't previously read by Fitzgerald.

Rating 4.5/5


F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby brilliantly captures the disillusion of a society obsessed with wealth and status. Young, handsome and fabulously rich, Jay Gatsby appears to have it all, yet he yearns for the one thing that will always be out of his reach, the absence of which renders his life of glittering parties and bright young things ultimately hollow. Gatsby's tragic pursuit of his dream is often cited as the Great American Novel.

By the way, I will be sharing one final quote from the book on Friday!


  1. I've downloaded both The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night to my Kindle and was wondering whether or not I would like them. Your review makes me keen to give them a go at some stage.

    1. Cath, I am planning to download Tender in the Night at the very least.

  2. Out of all the books I read during high school, this was my very favorite, and it remains a favorite to this day. I did a whole paper at end of term about the color symbolism in the story, and I think I still have that around here somewhere! I am so glad that you liked it and that your second reading of it went so well!

    1. Ha, a comparison of your thoughts then and now would be a fun blog post one day Zibilee!

  3. One of these days I am going to read this book. I have had it out from the library before, but not actually read it.

    1. I am pretty sure you can get it from Project Gutenberg Kelly.

  4. Daisy, and Tom really, were definitely pretty horrible characters. Gatsby was definitely thinly drawn, especially at the beginning of the book.

  5. I re-read this last year (actually, I listened to it) and was surprised by how much I didn't remember from high school (the whole ending). And even though I didn't care for any of the characters, I did end up liking the book.

    1. That's pretty much my reaction too. I had completely forgotten the ending as well. In a way, that could be a good thing though - just like reading it for the first time all over again!

  6. Yay Fitzgerald! My favourite is Tender is the Night, but I really need to do a Gatsby re-read. Librivox and Gutenberg should both have it.

  7. Stephanie, I am sure I saw it at Gutenberg the other day when I was looking for something else!

  8. Thanks for the review and for sending the link to the WWI reading challenge. We've linked you up and a snippet from the review will appear on March 6.