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on 12 July 2015
Fitzgerald’s narrator is Nick Carraway who starts the book with a quote from his father to always remember that people have not had the same advantages as him and as a consequence he always reserves judgement when he meets people. Nick is from a wealthy family and went to school with Tom Buchanan, but he still feels like an outsider as he has to work for a living. He looks to go into the bond market and rents an inexpensive house in the grounds of Gatsby’s mansion.

Tom and Daisy Buchanan are from a privileged class of bright young things. When we first meet Daisy she is lounging in a room with all the curtains open doing nothing. This fanciful idea of the curtain billowing, the ladies reclined with their skirts caught in the wind, as if being carried away in a balloon, fits perfectly with Daisy’s personality. “I’m paralyzed with happiness.” are the first words we hear her speak and reinforces the idea of doing nothing. Physically he gives the reader the description of, “Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it..” The excitement in her voice was “a singing compulsion, a whispered ‘Listen,’ a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since..” This flamboyant, effervescent character is both carefree and careless. The way she changes subject mid conversation to ‘you must see the baby’ suggests a lack of attention and a distressed mental state. She also suggests it is better for women to be a pretty fool, a social comment on the way women of her class are seen in Fitzgerald’s world.

Tom equally indulges in the pleasures of life, not just his horse riding and cars, but keeping a mistress in the poor district between his mansion and the city. He suffers a crisis when Daisy admits to loving Gatsby and he finds out his mistress is being taken away by her husband. Suddenly everything he has is slipping through his fingers, he is losing control.

Gatsby himself is a mystery. In the beginning we are told that no one is ever invited to Gatsby’s place they just turn up. This makes the invitation to the narrator equally strange. Then when Nick meets Gatsby he has to mysteriously disappear to answer a phone call. This is the first clue that Gatsby’s business is not strictly legitimate. He has made and maintains his fortune on prohibition. Yet everything he has and does is to impress Daisy, to be and belong in her world. He has a man in the city send him shirts, so he knows what to wear, the nouveau rich fitting in. The idea of him taking the blame for the car accident, when she was driving, is perfectly in keeping with his character.

Why is he called great? I think Fitzgerald was creating the ultimate American icon. The self made man who never gives up no matter what. As one reviewer suggests, Fitzgerald is creating the American Dream before the term was even used. Gatsby also has this insatiable positive attitude which never gives up hope that there is something on the horizon, just out of reach, all you have to do is keep striving. Encapsulated in the famous closing lines, “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further...” Again this pre-figures the American Dream that if you work hard enough you will succeed and those who fail, didn’t strive enough. It’s a recipe for tragedy, mental illness and loss.
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on 3 January 2017
This is a good read, and surprisingly short for what is considered an "American Classic". It's a good, straightforward story and can be finished in a day or two of reading. There's not a great deal of character depth or story to it really (based on the accolades and recommendations it gets, and compared to some books), but maybe that's a positive for those that don't like overly complex or deep novels.

I will say that I don't really understand why it's a "classic" as such -- it's good, but not amazing -- but then may that's why I'm not an English teacher :)

Worth reading for sure. Haven't seen any of the film versions.
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on 23 October 2014
One hesitates to criticise a classic, but this is a book I had been meaning to read for years, and sadly it was a disappointment. Maybe it's just that it's showing its age (though Dickens doesn't.) First, the structure - it rambles on about irrelevant stuff, particularly in the first quarter of the book. I was almost reminded of Ulysses in the way it describes all the minutiae of the day. Then suddenly whoosh, we're off to the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. Except we're not. Maybe it's a fault of having a male narrator (written by a man - does that sound sexist?) but there is very little sense of the emotional currents flowing here. As a result, I really couldn't make myself care about any of the characters. And its the characters who make a book worth reading.
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on 21 April 2013
Gorgeous, glamorous and doomed, Jay Gatsby epitomises the American dream: that we can be anyone we like, we can achieve anything we want... but that there's always a moral price to be paid. Dripping in glittering prose, this dissects the tragic disillusionment of the 1920s with its excesses of consumerist capitalism, its fragile, brittle allure - and the moral bankruptcy which underpins this charmed world.

In the beautiful but vacuous Daisy, and Gatsby himself - both an illusion and the victim of his own self-constructed illusion - Fitzgerald embodies the qualities of his age, but this is also a prescient book which speaks to a twenty-first century audience just as pressingly. With its investment banker narrator, its nascent idea of celebrity in Gatsby, and its catalogue of material things (motor cars, yachts, lavish dinners, legendary parties, mansions, swimming pools) this is as relevant today, almost a hundred years after it was written.

What makes this book stand out is Fitzgerald's tenderness: it would have been easy to have written this as a satire on wealth, on materialism, on the religion of possessions but he is a more nuanced writer and has a more subtle moral vision than that. For all that Gatsby may be a modern Trimalchio, as he is named in chapter 7, he's also a tragic figure, a victim of his own idealism.

My personal favourite Fitzgerald is Tender is the Night but this is perhaps the more accessible, and more tightly crafted text.
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on 16 January 2014
I had high hopes when I started reading this book as it is meant to be a classic, but to be honest I found it rather dull and unengaging. The story does not really seem to know where it is going and consequently feels confused as though the author is brainstorming rather than having a detailed plan of what he intends to write about and what the aim of the book is. You end up not really getting any real insight into the characters apart from maybe the fact that most are spoilt rich people who do not understand that life has consequences because they are unaffected by them. This could have been done much better and not in this rather flighty way. Even Gatsby is just an outline with no depth and everything about him and what he does is so vague that you feel the author could not be bothered to go into any detail and that it was easier for him if the reader just made up his own story.
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on 21 May 2013
I had to study The Great Gatsby for A'level English Literature. I remembered enjoying it, but couldn't remember all the detail. When the new film version was being talked about I decided it was time to re-read it.

I have to say I devoured it in a day. It is a beautifully written story about the mysterious Jay Gatsby, viewed through the eyes of the narrator, Mr.Carraway. The lavish 20's parties, the glamour, the carefree days of the era, are so clearly described I was there in spirit, dancing on the lawns and drinking cocktails. The ability of the author to create characters that one minute you love and the next you loathe is superb. The complex relationships between the main characters is really thought provoking and still, 20 years on, leaves me with unanswered questions that find me re-visiting the story again. I've yet to see the latest film adaptation, but since I love the 1920's, can't wait to see it just from a fashion perspective if nothing else, but I imagine the challenge of conveying the emotion of all the relationships will take some doing.

If you have never read this classic then I recommend you do and see just what makes this a classic novel.
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on 20 September 2014
Where do I start?
The story is boring, Hardly anything actually happens.
It is slow and the writer seems to drag on the story. In one part you get introducted to 10+ characters who all are very minor and then goes into detail about what they do. You hardly hear from them again and the whole page makes it seem like they just wanted to add an extra page. The characters are all very boring and even the ending doesn't really make you feel anything. It also goes into great detail about almost everything which is a good thing if it's about a new character as you can imagine what they look like and figure out what they are about. It's a bad thing when they are explaining something which you have already been told about and somehow the writer feels you need a recap, Or minor characters or places which will never be seen again and have no impract on the story. Overall the bad has some interesting parts, But it has more boring and dull parts.
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on 3 July 2015
I'm getting ready to teach a large group of homeschoolers in an online class for a year's worth of American literature. Since this was a book that I read when I was in school, I knew it was a typical choice and picked it up to see if it would make my short list.

OMG! This is an amazing book! The pacing, the language, the subtlety of character, are just superb. It's at the top of my list for a MUST read.

Poor Catcher in the Rye, which I read just after Gatsby, absolutely paled in comparison.

BTW, the di Caprio film was terrible -- all colour and orgy, and no subtlety (nor appropriateness for teens, imo). I'll edit this after watching the Redford version.
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on 2 March 2014
I have read this a couple of times before, but I think I always read it too quickly and didn't pay enough attention to it, hence never fully understood what all the hype was about. Having just given it a third reading, this time on Kindle, I finally appreciate what an incredible novel it really is.

Essentially it's a story of a man clinging onto a dream long after the dream's sell-by date. The writing is powerful, ideas are expressed which on a couple of occasions for me bring an almost religious aspect to the novel, for example when Gatsby talks about his time with Daisy five years ago, Nick is reminded of something that he has heard somewhere a long time ago but cannot quite place.

The book is quite a short one, quality rather than quantity is always a plus. There are no wasted words, the structure is good. If you haven't read it yet and you enjoy great writing, I highly recommend it. I can't think of any other book which I have read which it is similar to (I haven't read any other work by this author); it is quite unique.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 March 2015
Fitzgerald is a wonderful writer for sure; brilliant at painting pictures for you. His English is so clever, using a vast array of expression, it's clear, easy to read, it flows wonderfully well. Like a lot of the classics, this is quite a short book at 180 pages - hardback, but it is also a very full and absorbing tale with a very punchy and ultimately sad finale. I thoroughly enjoyed both the book and recent film and now feel that I now have a pretty complete overview of Fitzgerald's tale.One final thing - to those who have only read the book and loved it, watch the recent film with DiCaprio - I think you'll truly enjoy it, it's visually very lavish, with wonderful sets and glorious costumes of the jazz age. Give it a try old sport!
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