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F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby Girls (Review)

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F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby Girls
F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1920-22
300 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
August, 2013

Published in The Saturday Evening Post from 1920-22, these eight stories by Fitzgerald have been collected into a single new volume. An added treat are the original illustrations from The Post that accompany each story—they're wonderful.

Written with Fitzgerald's understated wit and irony, the stories, like his novels, revolve around America's elite. At country clubs, in spacious homes and yachts, handsome young women and Ivy-Leagued young men pursue one another with desperate intent. It's a marriage market to make Jane Austen blush.

The heroine of each story—always the most beautiful among her peers—takes pleasure in defying convention and shocking her elders. She has an unshakable confidence in her ability to define herself...to get whatever or whoever she wants. "Nerve," as one says, "is my one redeeming feature." Readers of The Post knew them as "flappers," those irrepressible young women who ushered in the Jazz Age.

It's difficult today to appreciate just how radical they seemed. There's more than a grain of truth in the charge that they were simply self-indulged, petulant young girls. Nonetheless, flappers were busy overturning centuries of feminine expectations, challenging the very rules their mothers and grandmothers had lived by—the need to be corseted, demur, and submissive.

The Gatsby Girls makes for delightful reading. For extra fun, pair the story collection with Therese Fowler's Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Zelda, according to Scott himself, was the inspiration behind his Gatsby girls. "I married the heroine of my stories," he said.

A disclaimer or two are in order. The ethos underlying some of the stories can be offensive. For starters, there is the racist treatment of African-Americans and the twice-used N word, particularly in "The Offshore Pirate." It's cringe inducing. Also, there is a complete disdain for "plain girls," as if only beauty matters, as if it has anything to do with character. It's "lookism" at its very worst.

See our Reading Guide for Gatsby Girls.


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