Having just missed one hundred books in the first year of The Book Challenge, in 2010, I made the full tonne. Still reading, but without the challenge, take a look at the reviews for the books that I have read this year.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Book 38 - The Great Gatsby

Book - The Great Gatsby
Author - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Year - 1925
Genre - Classic

I often feel that I haven't read enough of 'the classics'.  And there is good reason for this.  The thought of reading Austen or Dickens or the like leaves me cold.  As undoubtably great as they may be, I think they seem boring and can't get past that concept.  Probably a bad admission from someone who preaches to everyone he knows about the joys of reading, but nevertheless true.  However, I am using this challenge to persue more of the said classics - ably helped by Penguin's £2 range of books - and where better to go than to the epitome of an American classic, The Great Gatsby.

It is tough going at first, and for the first fifty or so pages I felt that I had picked up another boring one.  Plodding along with no semblance of connection between events, it was getting a tad dull, no matter how beautiful some fo the writing was.  Then the title character turned up and it all improved drastically.  Gatsby is a brilliant character, and with the American early twentieth century setting I was reminded of the other great character book I have read this year, Breakfast at Tiffany's.  As soon as he enters the scene things start to make sense, and despite him being complex and not necessarily a one hundred percent likable character, Fitzgerald's writing about him is wonderful, with whole paragraphs dedicated to the meaning behind each smile.

Fitzgerald's writing style is easily one of the biggest highlights of the book.  His turn of phrase is beautiful.  As well as the aforementioned descriptions of Gatsby's smile - truly inspired writing, look it up - I have a vivid recollection of him describing the music at a party as 'very yellow'.  However I have just scanned the book to try and find it and can't so if it turns out to not be there then expect it in my debut novel.

All of this writing leads to a quite wonderful story.  As it was written as a book for the time, I don't understand all of the setting - just as a book written now needs not explain how life is at the moment, so a book written in the 1920's needs not explain life in the 1920's, no matter how little I know of it - but aside from that the romance of the novel remains massively poignant even today.

In summary, this isn't my favourite book that I have ever read, but it is a bonafide classic, and very accessible once you get beyond the first couple of chapters.  If you want to read a book that makes you feel cultured but isn't dull as dishwater, then you could do much worse than this.


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