I'm assuming this book is considered a classic. I don't read the classics that often, so I wouldn't know. But anyway, I've heard of this one all my life, and watched part of the movie a couple times, I think. The other day, it so happened I was in the mood for literary fiction, and already having an armchair historian's interest in the 1920s, I waded in.
Story-wise, I didn't quite know what to expect. Turns out, the plot is an age-old standard about a poor boy's devotion to a privileged girl. Thrown into the mix is a rags-to-riches theme, a couple intersecting love triangles, the futility of material ambitions, the disease of wealth and much analytical fodder for human anthropologists.
Gatsby is great, as I see it, only in his heroic determination in conquering the world (well, financially conquering a significant piece of it, anyway) to win the heart of the narrator's cousin, Daisy. Daisy is one of those girls who is fun and bubbly at casual social events, held at arm's distance. Under her attractive surface, however, is a shallow, vapid conformist hardly worth the efforts Gatsby has labored at to ascend to her snobby caste. Daisy's hypocritical two-timing blowhard husband is even less likable. Though Gatsby has amassed his wealth by extra-legal means, he was by far the most sympathetic character for me, even without the poignant destiny.
I don't know if this was considered light reading in 1925, but today Fitzgerald's prose would befuddle all but the most literate. Not to say he meanders into introspective tedium as James Jones did 30 years later. Fitzgerald reminds me of Victorian-era authors who spent considerable time spelling out their observations of subtle human nuances/intuiting/speculating about the cognitive patterns they translated to. It's actually enjoyable, and didn't tax my 21st Century attention span too often. It was obvious, however, that F. Scott's favorite word was "vitality."
There is a murder, of sorts, in this novel, but the mystery that makes it worthwhile is the title character.