The Great Gatsby – A Mom and Son Review

June was such a month busy here.  Liam had his end of the year class trip to one of the beaches in our area.  It was a low tide day so we got spend hours exploring tidal pools, plus they had their fun/activity day and a whole slew of other fun activities for the end of the year.  Our Teen finished up his final semester of grade 11 and passed all his exams.  **sniff sniff**  This time next year he’ll be a highschool graduate (if not before).  Where does the time go?  Well, I know where the time didn’t go this month, it didn’t go to reading.  I didn’t read nearly as much as I usually do… or rather I haven’t finished as many books this month.  But that’s ok, because reading is about learning, enjoying and it doesn’t matter how many books you finish.  Plus, I have a surprise guest poster for this month’s “What I’ve Been Reading” post, and I can’t wait to introduce you to him.


So, I know this is only the second post in this new monthly feature and I’m already changing things up a little bit on you, but I just couldn’t resist changing the formatting for this month’s post.  Back at the beginning of June I asked my oldest what if they were reading anything in English.  I figured that chances were slim they were reading anything with final exams looming, but it turns out they ended the year with a novel study on The Great Gatsby.  I thought it would be great to get a his and hers/mother and son side by side review, so I asked him what he thought of it.  I asked him what he thought of the book and was busy scribbling notes when he asked if I’d like him to just a write a review in his own words that I could share here with all of you.  I was floored, and touched, and told him the simple truth – that I would love to include his review on here.  So, this month, instead of me sharing a list of things I’ve read around the web and in print, I decided I’d keep it simple.  One book, two views!  I hope you enjoy it!

The Great Gatsby Review

My Opinion

What can I say about this story that hasn’t already been said a million times in as many ways?  The Great Gatsby, for me, is one of those stories that is just purely enjoyable to read.  You’re transported to a time and place where extravagance abounds and the absurd and sordid details of the lives of the rich are put out there for all to see.

For me, the best part of this book is the language.  It’s rich and full and is such a treat to read.  Modern books just don’t have quite the same flair, though many come close.

I love the characters in this book, or more accurately, I love to dislike them.  They’re classic fictional characters, full of vices (of which there are plenty) and quirks that make them unreal in a real way.  To be fair, it would have been nice to see a little more character development, but as this novel is rather short, there wasn’t really enough time for that.  I found the majority of the characters in this book to be self-serving and almost absurd in many ways, which in a way was kind of delightful.  I like that they are not all lovable and darling, but a little more real.

As for the plot, again I wish there was more too it.  So many of the major plot points seem rushed, but in a weird way that sort of works.  Given the subject matter and the characters, the rush of the plot sort of mirrors what events like that can feel like in real life.  Often times, the biggest dramas in our lives, whether we create them or are subjected to them by circumstances outside our control, don’t have a big lead up: they just happen and are over before we’ve really had a chance to properly process them.  I think that works really well for this story.

All in all, The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite classics.   Every time I read it I feel the same way – like I’ve stepped back in time and into a world that no longer exists.  The underlying themes of the book make one stop and think a little.  The actions and the choices of the characters make you cringe or make you wonder.  The rush of love found then lost draws you along.  In the end, you’re left puzzling over whether the struggles and dramas the characters went through were well and truly worth it.  Any book that leaves you thinking, is a good book in my opinion.


Teen’s Opinion

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby  is a fantastic piece of literature, perhaps one of the best to come out of the 1920’s.  This is primarily due to the quality of the writing itself, which hasn’t been matched by anything else I have ever read.  Fitzgerald doesn’t hold back on the descriptive front; the setting, characters, and even culture of the time period become more and more real with each turn of a page.  Furthermore, the novel is virtually dripping with metaphorical language.  Everything from the billboards to simple colours have figurative meaning that has had many literature geeks contemplating the novel for hours on end.  If the esoteric metaphor isn’t enough, one will also find their time utterly absorbed in looking at the dictionary, as the variety of vocabulary used by Fitzgerald is nothing short of copious.

Outside of the literal standpoint, however, I find the story to be absolutely terrible.  As The Great Gatsby is a less fantastical and more a slice-of-life novel, it needs to have two things to meet my standards: likable characters and powerful emotional influence.  This book has neither of those things, in my opinion.  I am not one to look the symbaritic nature of the old upper class in distaste; in fact, I find it to be quite interesting, but the characters were portrayed in such a way that I found myself disliking every last one in one way or another.  Characters aside, the emotional impact of the story is what I find myself predominantly disappointed in.  When looking at any piece of fiction, I was to see it play with my emotions, but I remained stoic throughout the entire novel.  Fitzgerald even employed the greatest tool to influence a reader’s emotions: character death.  Multiple character deaths, when done right, should have a reader in tears, but the choice of characters to die was ultimately poor and practically left me more joyous than saddened.

The novel also boasts the romance genre, but the romances featured in the story are the worst I have seen, ever!  The main romance springs itself up out of nowhere and without any buildup, and immediately begins to collapse before any attachment can be made to the new relationship.  The other romances in the story could have been impressively well done, but they weren’t featured enough to pass any sort of judgement.

While the novel was well written from a literary standpoint, the story is fundamentally flawed in the areas I expected it to shine.  If I had to describe The Great Gatsby in a single word, I would use the word “disappointing”.


Well, there you have it!  A Mother and Son review of The Great Gatsby.   Two very different views of the same book!  Reading my son’s thoughts on the story was really interesting, and made me wish I had written a review after the first time I had read it.  I can’t remember my first impressions of this story, I wonder if I felt a similar lacking.  I don’t think so though.  As my son stated, for him, a slice-of-life novel needs two things to be a good book by his standards –

As The Great Gatsby is a less fantastical and more a slice-of-life novel, it needs to have two things to meet my standards: likable characters and powerful emotional influence.  This book has neither of those things, in my opinion.

Whereas for me, I’m a little more forgiving in the books I read.  I may have found the plot rushed, but for me the language and the characters balanced that out.  I don’t mind reading about characters that I don’t like, because at least they are real enough to not like.

I think it’s wonderful that we didn’t we get the same things out of the same book.  It’s given us a lot to talk about, and I can’t wait to find another book we can read and compare together, because this was a lot of fun.

Now it’s your turn.  Have you read The Great Gatsby?  We would love to hear what you thought of the book in the comments below.

Do you and your kids read the same books?  Do you talk about what you each you thought of the book?  It’s a lot of fun, you really should try it.

~Happy Reading~

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  1. Fantastic review. Your son’s articulation is quite impressive for a teen. Looking forward to another collective book review.

    1. ScatteredSquirrel says:

      Thanks so much Barbara. He did a wonderful job on that. It’s my favourite post. Unfortunately, he’s not as interested in reading as he was back then. Too much life stuff happening and other things that he’d prefer to spend his time on. My youngest can’t stand writing, and since he has to do enough of that for school, I didn’t push him to do one with me. Who knows, maybe he’ll offer to do one before he’s all done school.

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