My impressions: I read The Great Gatsby in high school (voluntarily, on a lark!), but I can’t say I had the maturity or patience then to understand it. As a result, I decided I wanted it to be one of my early inclusions in this year’s reading challenge, and since I’d read the book in novel form already, I opted this time for an audiobook, hoping that the change in format would help me to appreciate the book more thoroughly.
I made the right call, because I absolutely loved this book once I got into it. The first third of the book is a little slow, but once you get invested in the characters and the setting (and particularly the mysteries of the enigmatic James Gatsby), the brilliance of this novel really shines through. It’s the sort of book that is deserving of its great reputation, and I suspect if I read it again, I’ll find new things to enjoy about it.
I was surprised to learn this novel was largely pilloried as one of Fitzgerald’s weakest works until around 20 years after it was published (with Fitzgerald already in the grave), and I suspect it’s because it’s full of big ideas that really challenged the Roaring 20s culture which Fitzgerald not only helped to popularize, but also was well-known for participating in. But this book really speaks about much deeper themes than the culture of the day, and in many ways, it’s a critique of the American experience and the phoniness and emptiness that comes with chasing social status. Gatsby is one of the most hollow people I’ve ever encountered in literature, and it’s fascinating how Fitzgerald deflates him to show that Gatsby’s game of pretend is all for naught.