“You must know Gatsby.”
“Gatsby?” demanded Daisy. “What Gatsby?”
– p. 21
When I first read ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I read the German translation and fell madly in love with it. Then I watched the latest movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan and was completely blown away by how fantastic the adaptation of this all-time-Classic was! My goodness! And then I got the English version for my birthday last year and decided to read it as part of my challenge to read 6 Classics in 2018.
In ‘The Great Gatsby’, the reader follows the plot set during the Roaring Twenties, which is narrated by the young bond salesman Nick Carraway, who rents a house at West Egg on Long Island. Here, he meets his neighbor Jay Gatsby – a rich man with an enormous mansion right next to Nick’s little home, where he throws the wildest and biggest parties and shows the world a splendor that most can only dream of. The reader also meets Nick’s cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan, as well as Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker, in whom Nick finds a potential love interest. With every day that Nick spends with Gatsby and the Buchanans, he gains an insight into the world of the rich and privileged, but also catches more than a glimpse of the dark abyss behind the well-tended mask of the people he spends his time with. Love, betrayal, sorrow, lust, anger, imitation of innocence, Nick sees it all during his stay.
The Great Gatsby is a novel that criticizes a society that hides behind a mask of glamour and certain morals which soon find their end as they are slowly, but steadily revealed throughout the story. Fitzgerald’s writing is easy to follow and his descriptions of the world in which Gatsby, Nick and the others live are so detailed and beautifully crafted that you might think you yourself were part of everything these people experienced. I love how Fitzgerald writes intriguing yet simple dialogues that convey so much more to the reader than is actually said aloud, and how he can make anything sound so very poetic it sends shivers down my spine:
„For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened – then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.“ – p. 25
I love all these little things that are built into the story, for example how Fitzgerald plays with the portayal of Daisy and her naive, white dressed innocence and flowery air that might or might not lead the reader astray. I also thought it marvelous that as a reader, you share Nick’s skepticism towards Gatsby as well as his sympathy for him towards the end of the book. As I do not want to spoil anyone who hasn’t read ‘The Great Gatsby’ yet, I will keep my gushing to a minimum (because everything else I might want to add includes spoilers… ugh!).
Let me tell you a few things about the version of the book I read. Especially students in Germany might know the little yellow books of the Reclam-press that fit in every pocket and delight as well as terrify some readers when they even get a look at it (the latter mostly because of obligatory reading material during High School). Their yellow books contain mostly German Classics, but they also have red ones that feature English Classics in their original language. You will find a helpful vocabulary section at the end of each page, where some of the more difficult words get translated. There is even some background information to some aspects in the book as well as a very thorough essay about Fitzgerald in regards to ‘The Great Gatsby’ which I found very interesting. Although I think I know a wide range of words in any English text (and even if I don’t, context is everything), I enjoyed having those little helpers at the end of the page. Here you’ll get a little fun fact about me: even as a young student I loved thumbing through my dictionary for the English language and was fascinated with the words and their sound, so this was really fun for me (not to mention that it might have broadened my vocabulary).
So if you have some time to spare and ponder about what to read next, picture me jumping in front of you and swaying my arms like a madman, practically shoving ‘The Great Gatsby’ in your face. No, but seriously, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to include some Classics into their stack of books and wants to get swept away by the plot that surrounds the great Jay Gatsby.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
– p. 233
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Title: The Great Gatsby
Year of publication: 1925
[Genre: Classics / Historical Fiction]