This evening I finally finished ‘The Great Gatsby’, having made a start on it a good few weeks ago now. Despite its reputation as a classic, I was rather disappointed in it.
There are a few reasons why I found it to be a let down: firstly, there was quite a lot of unneccessary rambling. I usually don’t mind this in books (in fact, I think without any rambling at all, a book can become very dull – I remember disliking ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ in Higher English as Hemingway’s writing style was just too simple for my liking!) as I really appreciate the lavish descriptions which usually come with flowery language. However in ‘Gatsby’, in my opinion, it was excessive and therefore detracted from the actual plot and the pace of the novella. I often found it hard to follow because of this. The second reason is related to this – it seemed to jump from scene to scene without much indication of how it got there. This meant I frequently had to go back and reread massive chunks of text just to clarify what was going on, and at times, there was very little indication as to what had happened, so I just had to accept the sudden scene change and carry on.
The characters also felt quite weak and underdeveloped. I suppose that really sums up the essence of the book – the shallowness of the Roaring Twenties – but it still would have helped to see a bit more depth in the characters, because as a result, I didn’t have much sympathy for any of them and I found myself not really caring about any of the central issues in the novella. I did quite like Gatsby himself, and I suppose he does have the most tragic ending out of all the characters, so in a way, I cared about him. None of the other characters aroused the same amount of sympathy in me though. I have a feeling George Wilson would have, if he was more of a central character – while he was driven to crime in the end, I do believe this was because of circumstances beyond his control (his wife’s affairs, his failing business) as opposed to being a malicious character.
All in all, I am glad I read ‘The Great Gatsby’ as it’s one of those books that supposedly you ‘have to’ read before you die, and perhaps I would get more out of it if I reread it, but upon reading it for the first time, I have to say that unfortunately most of its merits washed over me in a wave of disappointing verbosity.
My overall rating? 5.5/10.