Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: The Great Gatsby

Is The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, great? 

The Great Gatsby is an incredibly well-known book. Practically every high school student is required to read it, and I am no exception.
I tried to go into this book with an open mind, seeing as the people I have met and talked to about it seem to either love it and think it is one of the most brilliant books ever to be written--or they hate it. With a passion. So where do I lie on the spectrum? 
The Great Gatsby is set in the roaring twenties, and the setting feels very rich. It is narrated by Nick Carraway, and it is about the fashionable and careless world of the time, and a very mysterious man: Jay Gatsby.
The book is written in a rhythmic, decadent style. Fitzgerald must have loved his thesaurus. It has a rather pretentious and over written feel, at least to me, but that almost enhances the tone of the book. I think it works perfectly, and some of the passages are quite beautiful. Considering I have been quoting the book as well (much to the annoyance of my mother) you could say that I liked the writing quite a lot. 
The characters of The Great Gatsby are not very likable. In fact, I did not find a single one of them to be a good person. And yet they are still compelling to read about, and despite their selfish, shallow ways, they feel realistic. 
The book was strangely intriguing to me. I can see why it can be considered boring, but much like with a soap opera, I was fascinated in spite of myself. I loved the dynamics between all these horrible people, and I loved the drama of the story. It was terribly pretentious and yet terribly entertaining. Fitzgerald even manages to interject some great humor into the short novel, and I found myself chuckling throughout the book, which I did not expect to happen. 
That being said, I didn’t love it. It won’t appear on my shelf of favorites, and I do think it is a bit overrated. There was something about America’s famous novella about the American dream that I found difficult to connect with. Perhaps it was the characters, who are not likable. Perhaps it was the plot, or the themes, or even the writing. Whatever the reason, it is never going to end up as something that I recommend to everyone I see, or will herald as one of the greatest books I have read. I liked it, and I think it made some very interesting points, but that is all the impression it made. 
Long story short, should you read it? If you want to see what all the fuss is about, sure. You may love it, or you may hate it, or simply be interested like me. But I think considering the impact the book has on pop culture, it is definitely worth reading, and beyond that, it is a good book. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review--The Summer of France

    Who wouldn't like to spend a summer in the hills of Provence? It's the dream of many and the reality of a few. Paulita Kincer's charming escapist novel, "The Summer of France" will appeal to readers who envision themselves escaping to the picturesque environs of Southern France. Seemingly part homage to "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "A Year in Provence types of travel journals, Ms. Kincer's novel goes further, adding in layers of intrigue and family drama, and even a little hanky-panky.... this is France, after all.
    Easily read in an afternoon, this is the perfect book to take to the beach or the poolside, as you dream yourself away to the Cote D'Azur, even if you can't get there in person. Escapism, in every sense of the word.

Review--Death in the City of Light

    As everyone knows, WWII certainly has its share of horror stories, and I thought I had heard most of them. Thus, I was intrigued when I came across David King's meticulously researched account of real-world French serial killer, Marcel Petiot, who terrorized Nazi-occupied Paris, taking advantage of the tumultuous atmosphere for his own nefarious intentions. Having been born long after the 1940's, and being unaware of this larger-than-life demonic criminal, I was fascinated. Petiot cleverly exploited the conditions in Paris under Nazi occupation, and he caused the horrific death of many who were already suffering so terribly at the hands of the Germans.
    "Death in the City of Light" reads easily, and it is by no means a dry courtroom drama. That sense of being aware that something terrible is happening, yet finding myself unable to look away, is a feeling that builds throughout this compelling book, which includes photographs of the crime scene and of the farcical jury trial that followed. Petiot's disturbing countenance stares out from several of the images, and details of his intelligence and charm reminded me of that fictional counterpart, Hannibal Lechter.
     But, knowing that this madman was real makes the story that much more gripping, and his placement in one of the darkest times in modern European history made this read a captivating one. I highly recommend it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Review--"Gone Girl"

     This book may need no introduction, as it seems to be everywhere and it is all the rage, but I'll throw my 2 cents in anyway. Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" has put a pleasant (disturbing) new twist on the world of the suspense/thriller novel. There is no political intrigue or international espionage to flesh out this tale, but rather your average domestic relationship gone terribly awry. 
     "Gone Girl" is written from the joint persecutive of the two main characters, who seem to share the roles of both protagonist and antagonist, depending on the point of view and the disposition of the reader. And the reader's feelings toward Nick and Amy Dunne definitely flit about, almost as quickly as the shifting viewpoints. What does remain steady throughout this very tightly drawn narrative, is the inkling that something is terribly wrong with these people, and things cannot end well. The "gone" part of "Gone Girl" implies more than just a literal disappearance; it reflects, too, the mental instability of one of the characters as well as the dissolving layers of this young couple's relationship. 
     If you are looking for something different, something dark and slightly askew, but thoroughly engrossing, give "Gone Girl" a go!