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Book: Paperback | 129 x 198mm | 240 pages | ISBN 9780141182636 | 17 Feb 2000 | Penguin Classics

In The Great Gatsby F. Scott 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.

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There was music from my neighbour's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.

Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York - every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler's thumb.

At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough coloured lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby's enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-dÕoeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.

By seven o'clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and coronets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing upstairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colours, and hair bobbed in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names.

The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key lighter. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the centre of a group, and then, excited with triumph, glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices with colour under the constantly changing light.

Suddenly one of these gypsies, in trembling opal, seizes a cocktail out of the air, dumps it down for courage and, moving her hands like Frisco, dances out alone on the canvas platform. A momentary hush; the orchestra leader varies his rhythm obligingly for her, and there is a burst of chatter as the erroneous news goes around that she is Gilda Gray's understudy from the Follies. The party has begun.

'A classic, perhaps the supreme American novel' John Carey, Sunday Times, 'Books of the Century'

'I've read the best novel ever this year. For beauty, economy and clarity there is no one to surpass F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby. If you haven't read it, do' The Times Metro

Student review by Maybelle Law, studying at University of Nottingham.

Despite first reading Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby many years ago, it still remains a literary masterpiece that never fails to illuminate my childhood fantasies. The novel instantly transports you into the opulent and dazzling maze that is 1920’s New York. Fitzgerald’s lavish soirees of high society vicariously leave you with cigarette smoke entangled in the hair and the taste of champagne in your mouth.

The novel depicts the narrator Nick Carraway, who unwittingly delves into heart of a tumultuous and highly unsympathetic society that consumes bewitched romantics such as the enigmatic Jay Gatsby that Nick later befriends. Tragedy of incredibly emotional dimensions unfolds upon the characters and juxtaposed with the magical background of the glittering blue gardens of Gatsby’s colossal ‘chateaux’ the reader is left even more staggered. The savage intensity of the power-hungry mobs that swarm to Gatsby’s parties and their misguided assumptions of Gatsby’s past, perfectly encapsulates the unabashed cruelty and cold demeanour surrounding the lonely and hopelessly romantic protagonist. Fitzgerald creates touchingly palpable characters that are entirely relatable but at the same time meander through settings that to the reader appear startlingly fantastical. The reader visits the ‘grotesque gardens’ of the Valley of Ashes then travels to the luxurious parlours of The Plaza Hotel and comes to a rest at the eerily still aqua waters of Gatsby’s swimming pool. However, Fitzgerald’s narrative does not only serve to describe but to critique. He overtly undermines the constrictions of the class system and the upper-class dependency on illegitimate proceedings to power and fund the opulence of high society living.

An incontrovertible classic; untouched by any other literary depictions of 1920’s high society. The Great Gatsby is a novel that remains embedded in the hearts and minds of readers of all ages and courageously entails of the swooning highs and desperate lows that are encountered on the desolate road to true love. 

The reader is left enchanted, distressed but all the more, hopelessly enamoured.