52 Books – Week 2: The Great Gastby

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The Great Gatsby
By: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pages: 180
Challenges: Dusty/Classic

Believe or not, The Great Gatsby was not required reading for me at any time during high school or college. The really odd thing is that I’ve never seen any of the movies and only had a vague idea what the plot was about (I knew it was set in the 1920’s and there was a girl names Daisy everyone was obsessed about).

This one was a dusty book challenge for me because I always pick up classics for super cheap, knowing I did want to read more classics, and that someday my daughter will need them for school, and they will already be on the shelves of our home. I always saw The Great Gatsby as the holy grail of classic books.

I wanted to really like this book and for it to become one of my all time favorites, but it fell a little flat for me. Perhaps that’s because, for some reason, I had it in my head that it was set on the west coast (perhaps San Franscico?) rather than the Long Island and NYC, so my expectations were thrown off course from the beginning. Not really sure why I thought that, just a misconception.

I like books with character development, but these character are very flat, and while the book is heavy with background expository near the end of the book, the only character I felt grew into his own was Nick – the narrator.  I wanted to know what happened to him after the book’s timeline, but like an impressionist painting, this book is a unfocused moment in time.

I wanted to fall in love with and root for Jay Gatsby. But for someone who seemed to have such drive to make his fortune, that drive deflated too fast when Gatsby realized it was based on an illusion. And that illusion was a twit of a girl. (Did woman really lay around like that in the 1920’s?). While many of the same situations still happen today, I find reading this as a very independent woman born after the feminist revolution that I could not connect with the female characters in the book.

I get that this is supposed to be about flawed character in a less than moral period of time. I think I just wanted for someone to take responsibility for his or her actions. Or at least a sign of remorse.

In the end, not unlike Gatsby’s dream of Daisy, the reality of reading this book, did not live to the hype I had envisioned around it. It just didn’t seem as epic as I thought it was. Perhaps if I had read it in a different time of my life, I could have related to the characters, but not now.

I just hope that Nick went home and found a real girl to marry, and not the girl he seemed to be writing home to with ambivalence.

Of course, this won’t stop me from going to see the new movie based on this film that is coming out this year, because Baz Luhrmann makes everything epic! and I think Leo will make an excellent Gatsby.

Next up: Wicked

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52 Books in 52 Weeks – Book 1: The Big Over Easy

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The Big Over Easy
By Jasper Fforde
Pages: 383
Challenge: Dusty book

Description: In The Big Over Easy, Fforde takes a break from classic literature and tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime. Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He’s investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.

I love Jasper Fforde and his Thursday Next series. I picked this one up a while back when I went looking for The Well of Lost Plots, but my local bookstore kept on insisting not to have it in stock. So I turned to this first installment of his “A Nursery Crime” series.

I loved mysteries when I was a child and teenager and read many a Nancy Drew and The Cat Who….. But got away from them in the last 2 decades.

Mr. Fforde is a master at witty writing and using real literature to create a whole new world full of puns and winks for the reader. You really have to be well read to even begin to catch half the references in his Thursday Next series. In this new series he leaves classic lit behind for nursery rhymes, fairy tales and even mythology.

To be honest, the first chapter or two were a little hard to get through, and I had started this book before, but put it aside, because it did not grab me enough to keep life from distracting me (thus why this fell into the dusty book challenge (which for those who don’t know, this is a book that has been gathering dust on your shelves prior to 2013.)

But I was home for the holidays and wanted something light-hearted to read, so I picked it up again, and I’m glad I did. While I do feel the book was light on character development (The first character you meet is Mary Mary and she definitely could have use more development), the point of the book is a mystery, and in Scooby Doo style it races to the finishing line. I am sure there is a lot of winks an nods to traditional mystery/private detective genre, but I’m not too versed in the Sam Spade, “hard boiled” (pun not intended, but side benefit)  theme, to catch all the references.

I think the highlight of the book for me, though, was the nod to nursery rhymes, fairy tales and mythology. I love reading (and watching) books and shows that take literature and twists or reinvents it.  I love Once Upon a Time, and Wicked, and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I like being in on the joke. So I was please with this book, though I would not rate it above The Eyre Affair.

Next up: The Great Gastby