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May 24, 2013

book review // the great gatsby.

Ok so I'm not really sure how to organize all of my thoughts about this book because they are getting mixed in with how utterly amazing the on-screen adaptation with Leonardo DiCaprio is. But I guess I'll start with this: I did not read this book in high school even though all of my friends that I went to high school with seem to have. I remember discussing this book in short, but only to discuss the importance of symbolism in literature. So basically, when I read this book, I had an idea of what was going to happen because I knew the information behind the symbolism, and I honestly thought that it was going to ruin the book for me. It didn't. Not at all. Turns out that you can cover the whole "green light" concept and a few other big points without actually knowing much about the plot. Plus, throw six or seven years in between that high school English class and present day, and well, there ya go. So points established 1) No matter what you think you know about this book, read it anyway and 2) I'm getting very far away from my high school years. Scary.

So anyways, now that I've rambled on and you're all super bored (I say 'you all' like I have readers yet, but I'm working on it) I guess I'll talk a little bit about the book. 

Set in the 1920s on Long Island - what a GREAT setting for a story ;) - and narrated in the first person by a man named Nick Carraway, this novel covers one summer in which Nick lives next door to Jay Gatsby, a man made famous by his immense wealth. Nick is surrounded by upperclass members of society through the whole book, and because he is basically nothing like the other characters in the story, it paints a different picture than if the story were told by someone in the upperclass. We are told on the first page that Nick's father once told him, "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember the advantages that you've had." So in turn Nick reserves all judgements, making him likable and approachable, especially to these people of wealth with a million and one secrets.

Nick is a Yale educated bond man with not much direction, so rents a small cottage in West Egg, land of the "new rich", next to Gatsby's mansion to commute to New York City for work. His cousin, Daisy, and her husband Tom live in East Egg, the place where "old rich" reside, also in a huge mansion. His first meeting with Gatsby occurs at a lavish party at his house, one of many which are thrown every night of the weekend for the duration of the summer. Gatsby is mysterious- he throws parties that no one is invited to, but everyone shows up to, and he is never anywhere to be found. The people who attend his parties make up stories about who he is, where he comes from, and how he got so rich so fast. Nick paints a picture of Gatsby through the whole book, and after he learns more about him, he depicts him as he is: a man with endless hope, a trait he'd never found in a person before and is convinced he will never find again. 

Without giving too much more away, this book's pages hold a lot of scandal. I've stumbled enough over what I've written so far, so I'll leave it at that. It's so worth the read. I plan on reading it again at some point now that seeing the movie has clarified a few more things about the story.

A short note on the movie: besides the fact that Leo is my soulmate and he completely nailed this part, Baz Luhrmann surprised me. I thought that he could possibly take the story a little too far and overcomplicate things, but it turns out that he was the perfect man to make this movie. His over-the-top style is parallel to the nature of Gatsby's parties and the lifestyle of the obnoxiously rich people who are depicted in the novel.

It is completely in my nature to read a book before seeing the movie, even if I didn't know the book existed before the movie preview came out. It's a little bit OCD, but it has helped me appreciate screen adaptations of books for what they are - a not-as-good version of the story with attractive actors that is simply made to provide you with relaxed enjoyment. I don't take changes between books and their movies with a heavy heart, because books are so much more capable in every way than a movie. But with all that said, this movie adaptation was the bomb dot com. So many of the lines were direct out of the book, the plot went chronologically as it did in the novel, and the only thing that was a noticeable difference is where Nick tells the story of Gatsby from and how. This small change, I think, was a good one, because it conveys some of the Nick's emotions that he easily shares with us in the novel, but can't be completely translated in a film, especially to those who have not read the book and know nothing about Nick or any of the other characters.

So that's all I have to say about that. This was much more complicated and drawn out than I had imagined when I finished the book and knew I was going to do a review on it, but it is really hard to provide opinions and a brief synopsis when you're trying not to give anything away! I hope this makes you want to read the book before you see the movie, if you are even interested in the idea of either now that I've made everything complicated. But for real, read it. Then see it. Then read it again with me and we can talk about how great it was the second time. Then we can watch the movie together with popcorn in our PJs and be best friends.

I'm delirious now.

Goodnight friends.

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