Great Gatsby (Review)

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The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
143 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
January 2009

Confession time. I don't really like The Great Gatsby. But I think I'm alone in the universe on this, which is why I'm recommending this month.

This review comes on the heels of Baz Luhrmann's 2013 film adaptation, a new biographical novel on Zelda, and a recently issued volume of Fitzgerald's famous flapper stories. Finally, I recommend Gatsby because critics have long considered it one of the quintessential American novels—a story bound up in the uniquely American myth of self-creation.

Unbound by blood lines, caste, or religion, Americans have long been free to re-invent themselves—to overcome their past and forge a distinctly personal future. Or so the myth goes. It is Jay Gatsby's fate to test that myth.

Gatsby is also a love story between poor Jay and wealthy Daisy, who met and fell in love during the World War I. It's a story that parallels Scott Fitzgerald's own romance with Zelda Sayre. Scott ended up marrying his Zelda, while Daisy married within her class. But years later, Jay rises (through unspecified, nefarious means), purchases a mansion across the bay, and attempts to win Daisy back—thus, setting in motion a tragedy.

The book is also seen as a coming-of-age story, in which Nick Carroway, the young narrator, witnesses the eventual destruction that lays about his feet and returns to his home in the Midwest—with a wiser if not jaundiced view of humanity.

Consider viewing, in whole or in part, any one of the five film adaptions: with Alan Ladd (1949), Robert Redford (1974); Toby Stephens (2000); or Leonardo DiCaprio (2013). There's a 1926 version with Warner Baxter, but it may be hard to find.

See our Reading Guide for The Great Gatsby.

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