“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
I’m sure you all know the story, but just in case I didn’t give enough away in my spoiler-tastic Part 1 and Part 2, here goes (TRULY SPOILER-TASTIC): Nick (not very rich) moves into a house in West Egg, discovers he has unhappily married friends Tom and Daisy in East Egg and glamorous neighbour Gatsby. Gatsby loves Daisy and has built up a sham fortune and persona to win her back. Tom is dabbling on the side with the garage owner’s wife so you’d think that Daisy would have no problem leaving him. But no, the big showdown arrives and the men descend into “she loves me more” without really consulting Daisy. Daisy kills Tom’s bit on the side on the way home (we think by accident), and Tom manages to convince the BOTS’s husband that Gatsby did it, so BOTS’s husband goes mental and shoots Gatsby and himself. And Tom and Daisy move away to fight another day.
(END OF SPOILERS)
The writing at the start of this book was so beautiful, so pin-point precise about characters with such economy of words, and then it all just descends into a pit of ridiculousness. To quote the Physicist:
“It’s just one of those Great American Novels that isn’t about anything, just everybody running around being ridiculous”
which is a little harsh, but on reflection quite true.
The first 3/4 is all about the characters and their flaws; Nick is ambivalent and has no courage, Gatsby has built a fantasy world in which Daisy will run into his arms, Tom’s just a *insert expletive here* (he’s really not a nice man!). I had such high hopes for Daisy – there was such potential for a dramatic suicide and a denouement in which the men realised their failings and resolved to do better.
The car accident and all that followed – it felt to me like FSF didn’t know how to finish his novel, like he’d crafted this masterpiece with exquisite character development, and then suddenly the publishers rang up and asked “hey, where’s my book?” and he had to quickly finish it and send it off. TNLRC tells me that this is unforgivable criticism of Mr FSF and that the sudden pointless ending is the grief of the Twenties in stunning writing*.
I feel like I used up all my happy, clever, articulate points on this book in the first two posts for the read-along, so… go read those.
I’m glad I’ve read it, but I doubt I’ll be re-reading it.
*she didn’t use exactly those words but that was the general idea