Book Reviews,  Book Talk,  General Fiction

The Great Gatsby – 4 Star Book Review

Thank you to Dreamscape Media for granting me complimentary review access to the new January 2021 audiobook recording of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, narrated by Sean Astin. This has not swayed my opinion; my thoughts are my own and my review is honest.

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About the Book

(As if anyone hasn’t heard of The Great Gatsby)

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Originally Published 10 April 1925
Edition Shown 1986 by Collier Books

Sean Astin Audiobook
Released 1 January 2021
by Dreamscape Media, LLC
Length: 5 hours and 30 minutes

Genre: Classics
Page Count: 182
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!

The exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, The Great Gatsby, (1925), stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T.S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as “the first step” American fiction had taken since Henry James; H.L. Mencken praised “the charm and beauty of the writing” as well as Fitzgerald’s sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald’s “best work” so far. the story of the fabulously wealth Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties in West Egg, Long Island, at a time when, The New York Times remarked, “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of American in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth. A novel of lyarical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romanc, and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.

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My Review

My Rating: 4 Stars
Consider “liking” my review on Goodreads.

I must admit that in the past I’ve let Gatsy sit on my Goodreads read list with a 1 or 2 star rating and no formal review, because I blew through this one reluctantly in high school and only remembered how pretentious I thought it was, how much I’m irked by the idea of “the great American novel” (I’m Canadian, American patriotism and pride is a little over the top to me), and the fact that the N word is used casually to describe strangers. (I acknowledge that this was not socially incorrect at the time this was written.) I was also tired of everyone thinking they’re cleaver by spouting off the tidbit that the novel is written entirely without the letter E, because obviously it’s not. There are two of them in the title alone! Those people are thinking of Gadsby by Wright.

You may be wondering why, then, I chose to request a review copy of the new audiobook, and you may be surprised to discover that I’ve now rated it a solid 4 stars. You may assume that I’m simply fan-girling over Sean Astin, but you’d be wrong! I love Sean Astin, for sure, but I didn’t even take note of the narrator credit when I hit that request button. I have been invited to review NICK by Michael Farris Smith for the blog tour with No Exit Press, and I figured I should brush up on Gatsby first. An unabridged audiobook seemed like a much wiser choice than the film. I’m now quite excited to read Nick!

The Great Gatsby is a book about people who want what they can’t have, and people who can’t get out of their own way to let the things they want happen. Perhaps I was too young and unaccepting when I read this as a teen to appreciate that, but I see and appreciate it now. Nick is a man home from the war who doesn’t really know what he wants, but he goes out looking for it anyway. He’s unhappy with the fact that he’s made it to 30 without securing a long term relationship or a successful career, and the pursuit of the latter is what brings him to Gatsby’s neighbourhood. Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin, is married to a successful and slightly pompus man named Tom who isn’t happy with his marriage and entertains the company of other women. Jay Gatsby is a fellow man home from the war who just wants to impress Daisy, the woman he loved but couldn’t have before the success he gained since coming home, and now he’s settled in her neighbourhood and throws frequent lavish parties with the hope that one day she’ll attend. When Daisy’s cousin moves in right next door Gatsby hears opportunity knocking and pulls bewildered Nick into his sugar-coated world.

It’s unclear whether Nick was attracted to Gatsby because he wanted to be him or because he was attracted to him, and I doubt we’ll ever find the answers within Fitzgerald’s own pages no matter how hard we look. This was written in the 1920s afterall, and the latter is not the sort of thing people published books about, yet the hints are there. Nick is often the first example that springs to mind when people loosely familiar with classics are asked to name an unreliable narrator, and while its true that Nick smooths over rough edges and eagerly accepts Gatsby’s grandeous origin story, I wouldn’t say he’s being dishonest with the audience so much as he’s hding bits and pieces of reality from himself. I’d say the truth of reality is there to be deciphered by the reader if we so choose, which is not always the case with truly unreliable narrators.

Gatsby himself is the character who really drew me in this time through, though. He has built himself up to legend status and flaunts the appearance of popularity and having everything he could ever want, but when the end comes the only people who care are his father and his newest neighbour. He has put so much effort into building his image in hopes that he could win back the woman he loves that he seems to have forgotten to build genuine relationships outside of that goal, and it must be such a lonely way to live.

Sean Astin’s performance with this book is as perfect as one might expect. I didn’t know he did audiobooks, but now I’m going to be looking for things he’s narrated specifically!

In the end, I would strongly encourage everyone who hated this book in high school to pick it up again sometime later in life and give it another chance. This book still has a lot to say in the 21st century, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I’ve grown into someone who appreciates it.

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Jenna is the artist/illustrator and author behind Westveil Publishing and its sub-banner platforms Jenna Gets Creative and The Westveil Archives. She live in Newfoundland, Canada with her husband, daughter, and feline overlords.

One Comment

  • Reads and Ramblings

    The themes in Gatsby are so important! As much I struggle with the characters because they can be irritating, the plot and messages are universal and I think always will be. I would probably rate it 3.5/4⭐ myself. Great review!!

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