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The Great Gatsby - Book Review

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by Chris Shepherdson (subscribe)
I'm a copywriter and freelance writer living in Melbourne. My novel, Another New York Murder, is available online.
Published August 13th 2013
You've seen the film, now read the book
After being pleasantly surprised by Baz Luhrmunn's Gatsby, I revisited the original novel.

The Great Gatsby has as much claim to any book as being the 'Great American Novel' so any attempt to interpret it for the big screen is bound to be met with scorn in many parts. But the truth is, most notable books are going to be made into films at some stage and even the most cinephobic bibliophile should get used to it. Although many have tried, I'm yet to see a film so bad that it detracts from the source material.

The Great gatsby, penguin books, F Scott Fitzgerald
My Well Worn Penguin Modern Classic Edition


The book scarcely wastes a word and at less than two hundred pages, its mere screenplay size has always attracted the suitors from Hollywood. It's the third time the Great Gatsby has been has been given the Hollywood treatment and never so audaciously or with as much razzmatazz.

Published in 1925 to minimal acclaim or success, it was the third of five completed novels from F. Scott Fitzgerald and its failure saw Fitzgerald spend the next decade writing short stories and engaging in Hollywood hack work to make ends meet.

Like many masterpieces across all fields of art, The Great Gatsby was seen as a failure upon its release and there is a sad story of Fitzgerald late in his short life scouring bookshops with an acquaintance trying in vain to find a copy.

The Great Gatsby, f Scott Fitzgerald, books


The book is told from the reminiscences of Nick Carraway, who one summer, rents a house next to Gatsby's mansion in the fictional coastal town of West Egg. Gatsby's reputation precedes him and Carraway becomes intrigued at his neighbour, seeing him in glimpses, his name appearing in snippets of whispered conversation. One night, an invitation arrives for Nick to attend one of Gatsby's elaborate parties where Nick finally meets the elusive Jay Gatsby.

Once inside Gatsby's gilded world, Carraway becomes swept up in the man himself and with an obsession to find out his many secrets including his mysterious past and what brought him to West Egg. To reveal anymore is unfair, just read the book for yourself.

The book has been called a morality tale, a cautionary look at excess, a nostalgic reminiscence, a study of greed, a love story, a tragedy among other things. The truth is, it's all of these and more. With effortless prose, Fitzgerald can't hide Nick
Carraway's admiration for Gatsby as a man who had everything except the love that he has lost and his efforts to try and be a better man to find it again could be seen as a metaphor for America itself with all its flawed bluster.

Luhrmann has been roundly criticised for his film but if his version of Gatsby does nothing else, it has at least got a new generation seeking out the novel to see for themselves and surely that is a good thing.

The Great Gatsby is available as one of Penguin's Popular Penguins for $9.95 at www.penguin.com.au and in various other editions.
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Why? You've seen the film, now read the book.
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