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Review: The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

01.29.12

The Great GatsbyEnglish literature has provided bookworms like myself with an insurmountable amount of writing to work through; there’s Shakespeare, Wilde, Austen, Du Maurier and in more recent years the likes of McEwan and of course, she of Harry Potter fame – JK Rowling. Such is the volume of their work that it is easy to forget the American greats, despite the huge role they have played in shaping and crafting the world of words. My personal favourites, when it comes to novels from across the pond, are Gone With The Wind, Catcher In The Rye and Of Mice And Men. And upon finishing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, I recently added another to the list.

Having announced in 1922 that he was to write ‘something new – something extraordinary and beautiful and simple, intricately patterned’, F. Scott Fitzgerald soon produced arguably his finest and most beloved novel – The Great Gatsby, coming 43rd in the BBC’s poll of the nations best-loved books.

Set in the aftermath of the first world war during the prosperous 1920s, The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick Carraway, who, unlike his new-money neighbours in Long Island, is Yale educated and well-connected. He lives next door to the mysterious Jay Gatsby, famed in the neighbourhood for the extravagent Saturday night parties he throws. Gatsby embodies much of what 1920s America represented; greed, wealth, ambition and desire; thus the novel was seen as a political investigation of America at the time of its publication. Written in the wild and the beautiful jazz era, The Great Gastby follows the lives of a set of vital, layered and well crafted characters, living in a time of social unrest. There is something very powerful in Fitzgerald’s writing that opposes the ‘get rich quick’ phenomenon that was sweeping the nation at the time of the post WW1 economic boom.

Fusing a colourful backdrop with historic context and wonderfully intriguing characters, it is plain to see why The Great Gatsby is widely regarded as a paragon of The Great American Novel. With a moral lesson that is still very much valid today, The Great Gatsby is ultimately a tale that tells its reader thus: the higher you stand, the harder you fall.

About The Great Gatsby

Here is a novel, glamorous, ironical, compassionate – a marvelous fusion into unity of the curious incongruities of the life of the period – which reveals a hero like no other – one who could live at no other time and in no other place. But he will live as a character, we surmise, as long as the memory of any reader lasts.

It is the story of this Jay Gatsby who came so mysteriously to West Egg, of his sumptuous entertainments, and of his love for Daisy Buchanan – a story that ranges from pure lyrical beauty to sheer brutal realism, and is infused with a sense of the strangeness of human circumstance in a heedless universe.

It is a magical, living book, blended of irony, romance, and mysticism.

About F Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St Paul, Minnesota, and went to Princeton University which he left in 1917 to join the army. Fitzgerald was said to have epitomised the Jazz Age, an age inhabited by a generation he defined as ‘grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken’.

In 1920 he married Zelda Sayre. Their destructive relationship and her subsequent mental breakdowns became a major influence on his writing. Among his publications were five novels, This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and Damned, Tender is the Night and The Love of the Last Tycoon (his last and unfinished work): six volumes of short stories and The Crack-Up, a selection of autobiographical pieces.

Fitzgerald died suddenly in 1940. After his death The New York Times said of him that ‘He was better than he knew, for in fact and in the literary sense he invented a “generation” … he might have interpreted them and even guided them, as in their middle years they saw a different and nobler freedom threatened with destruction.’

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