Nick Carraway moves from the Midwest to Long Island to try to make a living after World War I. He is curious about his neighbor and the extravagant pa...moreNick Carraway moves from the Midwest to Long Island to try to make a living after World War I. He is curious about his neighbor and the extravagant parties he throws every weekend. Eventually the two meet and become something like friends. The neighbor, Jay Gatsby, is shrouded in myth and legend and no one seems to know where he came from, how he made his money, or anything at all about him for that matter. Gatsby has a very specific reason for living where and how he does and his personal struggle pulls several others into his wake.
Like many others, I decided to re-read this before the movie comes out. I disliked it in school but I've changed my mind about almost all the other classics I've bothered to re-read, so I thought I might change my mind about this one too.
If you follow my reviews at all, you know that I am a very character-driven reader. Give me an awesome character and I'm happy. But there is not one likeable character in this novel. I think I kind of liked Nick in high school but now I don't even like him. He's by far the best of the bunch but that's not saying much.
Gatsby himself is kind of pitiable. He's worked hard, being pushed constantly by an overweening ambition. He seems to have been born with a desire for more than he has but circumstances cause him to push himself even harder. He surrounds himself with people who don't bother to know him and seems to think that this is what gives a man a full life. Or rather, he thinks its a step on the way to fulfilling his deepest desire. He just made me feel tired and sad. He could have had so much but in reality, he had nothing. The one sentence that sticks out for me is this: "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...." Gatsby, being self-made, doesn't realize this about people with old money and that is his undoing.
We must have watched the old Robert Redford movie in school because I kept picturing him as Gatsby. That's just fine by me; I'd rather imagine a young Robert Redford than Leonardo DiCaprio any day!
This is a short read and I think I'm going to find it a little haunting this time around. It's beautifully written, so if you're interested, go ahead and give it a go.(less)
I chose to listen to this because it showed up in my digital library's "recently added" lists and I recognized it as having been nominated for a coupl...moreI chose to listen to this because it showed up in my digital library's "recently added" lists and I recognized it as having been nominated for a couple of Audie awards. "I can't go wrong with something that's been nominated for an award, right?" I reasoned with myself.
It was terrible.
Had it been any longer than two hours, I would have stopped after about 30 minutes. I felt the writer was trying way too hard to be funny and as a result, the whole thing just fell flat. The plot, such as it was, would circle miles out of the way to set up a joke that didn't even make me smile.
The basics are here--the evil stepmother, Snow White, the mother wishing for a child fitting Snow White's description...I guess that's about it. There were tons of other fairy- and folk tale creatures dragged in by the skin of their teeth, which I should have loved, but I didn't. I mostly didn't see any rhyme or reason for who was included and who wasn't. I honestly can't even remember what happened to most of them.
Snow White was super annoying. I believe that was kind of the point, but man, she set my teeth on edge. She's supposed to be about fifteen but she's voiced by Sandra Oh, who is at least as far from fifteen as I am, and she generally acts about two years old. Temper tantrums? Seriously? Not attractive or enjoyable.
I could go on but I won't. I'm sure there's an audience for this, I just don't know who it would be. If you're interested, don't let me dissuade you from trying it out; at two hours long, you don't have much to lose.(less)
I saw and loved the short film long before I read this book. I was a little anxious when my husband bought the book for me because I wasn't quite clea...moreI saw and loved the short film long before I read this book. I was a little anxious when my husband bought the book for me because I wasn't quite clear which came first, and would I really like the book as much as the film?
I needn't have worried.
The two are amazingly similar, both being charming and whimsical and just perfect for any reader. I highly recommend this story in any form.(less)
Tom Joad, just released from prison, heads back to his parents' farm only to find that they have been evicted from their land and are on their way to...moreTom Joad, just released from prison, heads back to his parents' farm only to find that they have been evicted from their land and are on their way to California in search of a fresh start. Thousands of families are in a similar situation and there are many ruthless people along the way who take advantage of them, mistreat them, and make their lives harder than they have to be.
Is there another version of this book floating around out there somewhere? Because this is not the book I remember reading in high school. Yes, I'm joking. Sort of. I deeply disliked this when I had to read it for class. All I could remember was how depressing it was and the very, very last scene. It made an impression on my 16-year-old self.
Now firmly in my 30s, I don't know if 16-year-old me was an idiot or if current me is just old and jaded, because I just about loved this. I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could.
It's still dark and depressing, there's just no way around that. Everything that can go wrong for the Joads, does. From before they even hit the road, and I'm sure continuing on well after the last page is turned, they just can't catch a break. It was infuriating, even more so because I knew that this was firmly based on the reality of the Dust Bowl and the Depression.
But this time around, I saw some hope.
The Joads are not beaten. They have taken a beating and they are down, but I don't think they're out. They're still out there struggling along, doing the best they can, for themselves and others. Do you see that? And others. They have practically nothing, but they still give what they have to people who are worse off than they are. They go to some extreme lengths to do it too. As long as the Joads and people like them are still around, I have to have hope for their migrant community. I have an essay about this churning around in my head with quotes to support my point of view and everything, but I'll try to stay out of that. But that's where I stand.
The characters definitely had their own distinct personalities, but they weren't so distinct that I couldn't relate them to people I know. Ma is fierce in protecting her family and gentle in her kindness. Pa just wants to do some honest work for an honest day's pay. Tom has grown up fast and is slowly becoming the leader of the family in their changing environment. Al feels overshadowed by his older brother. Rose of Sharon goes through an emotional journey that is impossible to get into, but I think most women would understand where she's coming from. I think these characters are what made the book a classic. I have never known what it is to be hungry or homeless, but because I know people like the Joads, I can put myself in their place. I don't know if I would have their grace, but I admire it in them.
Steinbeck chose to write in a dialect that might make it hard for some people to understand the conversations. I took right to it and found myself thinking the way that the Joads talked. Even just looking back through the book right now to decide what I wanted to write, I found myself slipping into it.
I read East of Eden about a year and a half ago and was surprised by how much I liked it. I had a feeling that maybe I had misjudged Steinbeck a little all those years ago. I read the first chapter of The Grapes of Wrath and I was pretty much blown away. This man could write! He opens with a description of the land drying up and dying and the people's hope drying up with it and that chapter is practically perfect. I felt parched and dry and uneasy. He set the stage for this book that well in just about four pages. He chose to write the story in alternating chapters. One chapter about the Joads and one chapter about life in this era. I liked that he wrote it this way. He didn't have to make an unrealistic amount of stuff happen to the family to show how bad life was for everyone. He was free to range around different topics. And the beauty of his language showed in the general chapters.
I re-read this for my book club, and I believe we all agreed that reading it in early spring was not a good idea. I for one like fluff when the sun starts shining because that's about all my brain has the capacity for. If you can relate, pick this one up in the wintertime.
But pick it up, even if, like me, you hated it when you were forced to read it in school. You might be surprised by how your perspective has changed.(less)