Young, handsome and fabulously rich, Jay Gatsby is the bright star of the Jazz Age, but as writer Nick Carraway is drawn into the decadent orbit of his Long Island mansion, where the party never seems to end, he finds himself faced by the mystery of Gatsby's origins and desires.
In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald brilliantly captures both the disillusion of post-war America and the moral failure of a society obsessed with wealth and status. But he does more than render the essence of a particular time and place, for in chronicling Gatsby's tragic pursuit of his dream, Fitzgerald recreates the universal conflict between illusion and reality. 'A classic, perhaps the supreme American novel.' John Carey, Sunday Times, Books of the Century
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St Paul, Minnesota, and went to Princeton University, which he left in 1917 to join the army. He was said to have epitomized the Jazz Age, which he himself defined as 'a generation grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken'. In 1920 he married Zelda Sayre. Their traumatic marriage and her subsequent breakdowns became the leading influence on his writing. Among his publications were five novels, This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and the Damned, Tender is the Night and The Last Tycoon (his last and unfinished work); six volumes of short stories and The Crack Up, a selection of autobiographical pieces.
Fitzgerald died suddenly in 1940. After his death The New York Times said of him that 'He was better than he knew, for in fact and in the literary sense he invented a 'generation'. . . he might have interpreted and even guided them, as in their midle years they saw a different and nobler freedom threatened with destruction.'
One of the French novelists, I can never remember accurately whether it was Maurois or Mauriac, said that 'the door slams shut on a writer before the age of 12' - meaning that all his raw material has been formed by then. It feels a bit early but I know what he meant. Likewise, perhaps all the influential books are those encountered in one's formative years. Fitzgerald had many faults - unpursued ideas, incomplete themes - but in Gatsby he created a sleek monster, a metaphor for that society of the rich dangerous to the heart even when passive Review by Frank Delaney, whose books include 'The Sins of the Mothers' (Kirkus UK)
Runner-up for The BBC Big Read Top 100 2003
Short-listed for BBC Big Read Top 100 2003
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