First off I have to say that if this book was of a ‘standard’ length I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did.
Fitzgerald’s description of the 1920’s is wonderfully descriptive, you can feel the cloying heat, intimidating and foreboding – there’s a feeling of the storm to come in the near future.
Most of the characters however are awful. Daisy is an unlikeable young idiot who has given up waiting for the man she promised to remain loyal to while he was at war, instead she weds a man with money. Tom, her husband is a man who’s peak was reached during football games at college. He no longer loves his wife, has strayed in the past and currently has a love nest set up with another mans wife in the city. Jordan starts out as a woman with the potential to be interesting but unfortunately the authors portayal of her remains superficial and one-dimensional. Nick, the narrator, is a non-character given very little depth by the author but as such makes a satisfying storyteller with no real concerns of his own to distract from the principal tale. He is not as financially solid as the other characters and gives voice to the reader’s scorn of the over-privileged characters, miserable in their unobtainable and fabulous lifestyle even as he looks on enviously. He states with absolute certainty that he holds Gatsby in contempt but very obviously admires him and seems to take great pride in becoming his confidante and frequent party invitee.
Gatsby is the man who Daisy fell in love with and promised to wait for before she married Tom. he is the character that comes closest to gaining my sympathy. He throws extravagant parties for hundreds of guests he doesn’t even know and at first he seems like another twit looking for ways to squander his untold fortune. We soon learn however that Gatsby has taken his sprawling mansion only because it is within sight of his lost love Daisy’s property and his parties are a means to try and make a mutual aquaintance in the hopes of recapturing her heart. Although the man is loathsome at times, particularly in his shamelessly trying to destroy a marriage that he doesn’t know at the time is loveless, and there are suggestions that he came by his money through unsavoury means, Fitzgerald litters the tale with enough hints at his good character and self-improvement to redeem him. The ‘schedule’ discovered by his father at the end of the book is particularly poignant.
The story is well paced, starting out as sultry and languorous before the sudden climax as one disaster irrevecobly destroys the characters lives and relationships.
Some of the prose about the inevitable passing of time is wonderfully rendered also.
Fitzgerald’s pace and brevity of story are well judged, long enough to adequately build from a tense, melting-pot to a frenetic tragedy and then address the consequences but just short enough to prevent the dislikeable characters from marring a truly beautifully written tale.