Book Review: The Great Gatsby

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Disclaimer: If you haven’t read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but are planning to, and haven’t seen the 2013 film adaptation – STOP READING!

I made the mistake of watching the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. I didn’t think that I would read the book, and it was never prescribed reading for me. So, as I read, I didn’t have the opportunity to create my own imagery. I couldn’t imagine what Jay Gatsby looked like, other than picturing Leo. I couldn’t envision Daisy as she was written. I could only see Carey. It’s a shame. It’s one of my favourtie things about reading. The opportunity to create an imaginary world based only on the author’s words. As I was reading, I knew what would happen next. I could see it, in my mind, exactly as it happened in the film. Which leads me to applaud the makers of the film. They kept the film very true to the book. Now I must admit that I really did love the film. It was beautifully made, and well cast. And also, I have long been convinced that I should have lived in the 1920’s. I love everything about it. It was a wonderful film. So I liked the book as well. One quote that stuck to me, which I found very poignant for some reason, was:

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures
and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together
and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

The story in itself is beautifully tragic. Unrequited love, infidelity, lies and loss. It’s about how people who have plenty, often become disconnected to the “real” world, flitting about in their ivory towers. It’s about how people persevere and can make so much of themselves, to a point of delusion, only to be broken down by ill-informed grief-stricken “have-not’s”. While reading it, you cannot help but feel an immediate connection to Gatsby, without knowing why. It might be his abundant generosity, or his charm. I rather think it’s his mysteriousness that’s so intriguing. To give a little away (so stop reading lest you want spoilers), it’s a classic love triangle. Jay loves Daisy. Daisy loves Jay, but is also married. Daisy’s husband is unconcerned with his own marriage, until he finds out someone else is sniffing around his wife. It’s a big hoo-hah, passive aggressive fighting, and an eventual storming off. Tragedy strikes, lies are told to protect others, and suddenly everything has gone to hell.

And as always, true to life, people end up alone in their misery.

My last thought about The Great Gatsby, is this:

Daisy is a bitch.

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Book Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four

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The fifth book I read from my Summer Reading List was Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It was first published in 1949, and surprisingly, still very relevant to modern times. As far as the “story” goes, I was so very disappointed. It is well written, and has more than enough drama, intrigue, betrayal and love. But being the eternal optimist reader that I am, I was hoping for a better ending.

The author tells the tale of the plight that the world finds itself in, in 1984. In a nutshell, the world has been divided into three super nations, all run by similar totalitarian states, with the menacing omnipresent dictator (Big Brother) who controls his people through fear, lies, arbitrary violence, phantom enemies, giving the citizens no freedom, physical nor mental. Even their minds are controlled, manipulated and censored. They have no privacy, are constantly being watched, monitored and spied upon. If one dares make a mistake in the opinion of the Thought Police, they would simply disappear from the face of the earth without a trace, and no memory of them remaining. All evidence of their existence would be simply eradicated, as if they were never there. And this is widely accepted by the population without even a second thought. Which is exactly what Big Brother demands of his state. As the book’s protagonist, Winston Smith simply cannot accept this reality. Thoughts of rebellion and defection come to mind, but ultimately, is not in his power. His internal struggle for the truth, for reality, is truly heartbreaking and frightening.

This book still resonates today, with many “shocking” acts commited by the government in the book, being an accepted truth and part of life for us in this day and age. I’d rather not go too deeply into that, but I found a very interesting article explaining these things here.

As a side note, this was the first time I read this book, and I was quite shocked to find that a few of the very popular Young Adult novels in the past couple of years, closely resembles the themes of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Sure, their stories are different, but alas, the general idea is the same.

 

Book Review: Lolita

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Yeesh. This one is difficult. I finished reading on the 3rd of October already. I’m just not sure what to say. But, I need to write this review, so I can get on with my list. I’ve tried to explain the novel to a couple of people, trying to formulate my blog post through discussion, but even my words failed me. So I’ll just try to get my thoughts out – let’s hope it makes for a decent review.

In a twisted turn of events, this novel deals with the subject of sexual abuse, however, it is done through the eyes of the abuser. Yet somehow, you’re not always sure he’s the one taking advantage. In fact, there are points in the story where you genuinely feel sorry for this middle aged literature professor (Humbert Humbert), who helplessly falls in love with a twelve year old (Dolores Haze). The thing is you get the feeling that Dolores, who Humbert nicknamed Lolita, knew exactly what she was doing, and how Humbert felt. Sure, he married her mother just to stay close to her, but Lolita definitely takes advantage of Humbert’s affliction. She instigated the whole thing, although he doesn’t fight it when it gets down to it.

Yes, he is the adult. Yes, he has this predilection for pre-pubescent girls. But throughout his narration, which is very likely biased, you feel sorry for him. He tried to control it. She manipulated him, she knew how he felt. She enticed him, threatened him, used him, and abandoned him. It’s quite sad then really, when he is driven to madness and murder, because she didn’t love him back.

By saying I felt sorry for poor old Humbert, I obviously am not saying anything about the morality of the subject matter. And the way it was written makes it quite readable for most. It is never explicit or even erotic (in my mind at least). It’s really about the struggle of this man in dealing with his deep love and lust for a seductive and salacious twelve year old nymphet. It’s hard to read, but worth it, just to at least understand the pop culture references. In other words, read at own risk.