The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby was first published in 1925and captured the America of the Jazz Age, as the author termed it. Set in 1922, squarely between the aftermath of the First World War and the eventual financial crash of the Wall Street in 1929, we see Long Island during the prosperity of the twenties when Prohibition made drinking and partying like a form of rebellion. At just 150 pages, it is like a small gem of a book, full of the brittleness and indulgences of the bright young things of the time. As inhibitions loosened and old moralities were rejected, the wealthy revelled in their excesses.
Jay Gatsby is the enigma at the centre of the story. He is a self - made man with a mysterious past who charms those around him. His parties are elaborate and open to all, seemingly teeming with rich socialites. As the book progresses, we realise that in fact to Gatsby, these are laid on like bait, as he is hoping that among those who flock to take advantage of his largesse, will be Daisy Buchanan, who he loved as a boy. We begin to realise that no matter how cynical and manipulative Jay may appear, at the heart he is a romantic.
Nick Carraway, the narrator, seems to be the one person untouched by the age. He is an honest observer and through him, we see the story unfold. Daisy is his second cousin who is married to Tom and they are both typical of the age. Fabulously rich and famous, there is nothing romantic about them. As Fitzgerald commented:
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
I enjoyed the gradual unravelling of the truth behind Gatsby, his motivations and the complicated lives of Tom and Daisy. The consequences of their behaviour were shocking and exposed their lack of conscience and self-absorption. No matter how superficial and shining their lives may seem at the beginning, we see them eviscerated and their raw and ugly hearts exposed under the surface.
In short: this novel does not disappoint. Its economical style perfectly mirrors the glittering superficiality of life in the Roaring Twenties.