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Book Review: The Great Gatsby

February 18, 2021

“You’re not special for reading The Great Gatsby. We all went to high school.

Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.

Okie dokie. Let’s tone it down. I was just making a joke.

So was I. That’s the first line of the book.

What? I didn’t read the book”
– Internet conversation

I’m pretty sure I read The Great Gatsby in high school. Ms Thomas was a really good English teacher. I had her for Freshman Honors English and later as a Junior for AP English. She probably introduced me to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. However, I don’t remember it.

Everyone has heard of The Great Gatsby. The book was written in 1924. It’s been made into countless movies. Okay, you could probably count them. IMDB lists 5 versions including the 2013 version starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

If you are like me, you probably don’t remember the story. I remembered there was something about lots of parties. That was my recollection prior to rereading it.

At 178 pages, it’s a short book, but a rich and complex story. Not remembering anything from the story, it made the reveals in the book more striking. I was at times disgusted, surprised and saddened. The Great Gatsby is a tragedy. It’s not quite Shakespearian in that not everyone dies in the end. But, enough die to put a somber ending on what to that point had been a morality tale. The book is 100 years old, but in case, like me, you don’t remember the story and decide to reread it, I’ll keep my review spoiler-free.

What I Liked

I loved the characters. Even Gatsby who honestly is not a particulary admirable character pulled me in. I wanted to be his friend. I wanted to stand by him with Nick when his so called friends all deserted him. I also like the reference to the 1919 White Sox scandal where a group of gamblers conspired with ball players to throw the 1919 World Series. At the time Fitzgerald was writing his story, the Black Sox scandal was only a few years old. He made one of the gamblers a key player. As a baseball geek, I enjoyed it.

I also liked the way Fitzgerald moved us easily between East and West Egg and the ash lands. And ultimately the people in each of the areas were not all that different.

What I Didn’t

At times I got lost. Fitzgerald’s transitions were at times abrupt. I found myself going back and rereading a previous paragragh. For example, when we find out Gatsby’s real name, it took me several paragraphs to figure out that Gatz and Gatsby were the same man.

The story didn’t go the way I wanted it to. The guy I thought should get the girl didn’t get the girl. Fitzgerald’s story was much stronger and better than mine. But, it was with real sadness that I read parts of the story.

One glaring incongruity concerned the character Meyer Wolfsheim, is a Jew and the gambler who threw the World Series. At one point we find out his company is named “The Swastika Holding Company.” That name, especially for a business owned by a Jew would not be noteworthy in 1925. Obviously today, the idea of a Jew naming his company after the symbol of the Nazi Reich is unthinkable.

What It Means To You

There’s a reason that The Great Gatsby is still being read 100 years after it was written. It’s an enjoyable book and one that won’t bog you down reading through it on a Sunday afternoon. It’s an absolutely brilliant book and a gripping story.

My Rating

4 out of 4 stars

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Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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