Thursday, 4 September 2014

Reading The Great Gatsby and The Bell Jar

Another two (short) classics!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I'm going to be completely honest here. I only read The Great Gatsby because the book was free in the Amazon Kindle store. Don't judge me. The book has been very hyped lately because of the movie and the world's general revived obsession with the 1920s. I'm all about the twenties, I get that. We follow Gatsby who every Saturday holds the most extravagant and indulgent parties in the area, through the eyes of his neighbour Nick. To him Gatsby is a mystery, a man without a background who appeared out of thin air and made himself a fortune. Through Nick, Gatsby is reunited with his long lost love who has since married another man and it is through the love story that we solve the mystery.

I can definitely see why this book is so well-liked. The characters were interesting and I became just as fascinated by the love story (which at the time was probably not as cliche as it is today) as the book had set out for me to be. It is also well-written in quite a dreamy way. However, it wasn't until halfway through the book that I actually got sucked into the story! Nevertheless, a good read.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Contrary to my reasons for reading The Great Gatsby, I had been planning to read The Bell Jar for a long time. Not that I knew much about it other than that it was about "the decline of a young woman's mental health", which sounds exactly like something I'd be interested in. The young woman is Esther Greenwood and we join her in the story when she temporarily lives in New York and for the first time becomes unsure of what she wants to do in her life. During the summer she experiences a breakdown due to her worries about her future, the pressure of the expectations on her both in her writing and personally as a woman.

I really liked this book! Many people have criticised it for being depressing to read (and oh my god, it is depressing) but surely a book about depression cannot be anything but depressing. There has also been complaints about the main character but I found her refreshing, not content with living life typing shorthand and marrying a successful man which is what everyone else wants. I was amazed at how current the book was despite it being written in the 60s (and how it focused on women's issues that are being debated today) but most of all it was beautifully written. The only criticism is that there was a number of events in the story that felt like they were left unexplained and never properly hashed out which is frustrating, but I would still recommend people to read it, especially if you only read up on Sylvia Plath after you've finished the book.

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