I hadn’t read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “The Great Gatsby” since my teens. The book made a huge impression on me at the time, but I couldn’t remember why.
Now with a new movie adaptation out, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, I thought it was time to revisit the story myself.
It took a little effort to squeeze into 1920s New York (especially after reading so much urban fantasy lately), but once I adjusted I could see the story unfolding like a beautiful but tragically short-lived flower.
The narrator Nick Carraway gets briefly and intensely swept up into the glittering fantasy that is his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is a man desperate to be worthy of the woman he loves but has only admired from afar for the past 5 years. What was a summer romance for her, turned into an obsession for him.
Rumors about how Gatsby obtained his wealth flow as freely as the champagne and cocktails at his weekly parties, though no one truly knows who he is or where he came from.
With a broad brush Fitzgerald paints a dazzling picture of a time between the two world wars and before the great depression. At times the image is a hazy watercolor of a hot summer afternoon, flowing into a painfully detailed drawing of characters on edge and choices looming large.
For me the imagery as well as the precise use of language held me in thrall to the story. I can honestly say that the book again made a deep impression on me. No doubt in a few years time I’ll want to read it again as its poignant themes of wanting to fit in and belong remain relevant no matter what time period you set it in. Maybe I’ll even go see the movie.