4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Good but not great,
This review is from: The Great Gatsby (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
With the release of the latest film version of the book I heard more than one critic describe the book as one of the best/greatest/most wonderful books ever written. My recollection of a school induced attempt to read it was that it was over-rated but with all the current clamour about the glamour I wanted to reassess my view.
The Great Gatsby is a slim novel of 170 or so pages - bulked up in my edition by 55 pages of introduction - with a thin plot and a cast of characters that are sketched rather than fully drawn. The result is a water colour not an oil painting. It hints and teases at depths in plot and character but no more. It has been hailed as a great evocation of the time in the same way that Bonfire of the Vanities was the light that shone on corporate excess and social divide in the late 20th century. Yet it seems to be no more than a portrait of a small group of people in a small part of a country with little or no soul and nothing for the reader to latch on to and engage. Who do we really care about in Gatsby?
Rather like seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, reading The Great Gatsby has to be done. But done only once. It is famous for being famous. It works perhaps because the thin, enigmatic, opaque characters allow the reader to fill in the gaps, to add the depth with their own ideas. It's a book that can be whatever you want it to be.
Do read it. It's a perfectly enjoyable read and it's part of the literary landscape. It provokes discussions about what is 'great writing' and 'great literature' and so does us all a service. Does it bear comparison to Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Irving, even Wolfe? I think not. It's good. But its not great.