Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Great Gatsby (Graphic Novel) adapted by Nicki Greenberg

The Great Gatsby
By F.Scott Fitzgerald

Graphic Novel adapted by Nicki Greenberg

Published: 2007

Synopsis: A wonderful homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald's jazz-age classic that brings to life the glitter, the melancholy and the grand and crumpled dreams of Fitzgerald's unforgettable characters. In the exquisitely realised setting of 1920s New York, a throng of fantastical creatures play out the drama, the wry humour and the tragedy of the novel.

The Great Gatsby is simply one of the finest books ever written. Not everyone may agree with that sentiment but I'm honestly hard pressed to think about a book that means so much to me and is written so well. After becoming a fan of the book, I became a fan of the film (which I'll be reviewing later this week) and after that I became a fan of this graphic novel. Even before reading it I was enchanted with the idea of reading The Great Gatsby as a graphic novel, and was intrigued by the idea of making the characters animals, flowers and monsters. I won't be getting into too much detail about whether the construction of the characters as seahorses (Gatsby), dandelions (Daisy), slugs (Nick) or ogres (Tom) adds much in regards to further edifying the characteristics and qualities of the characters, but let me just say that this bold and slightly bizarre idea does, inexplicably, seem to lend a certain je ne sais quoi to the story. I can't really be certain how, although I do find myself wondering now how I never envisioned Gatsby as a seahorse before!

It seems to be a popular misconception that Fitzgerald was writing about the glory of the 1920s jazz age. I think it's fairly clear that rather than praise the era, it is, for the most part, illustrating the gratuitous and self-serving nature of that hedonistic time. To an extent I do understand the mistake. The beauty of Fitzgerald's writing makes me nostalgic for a time I never knew, and by all account (at least those written within the pages of The Great Gatsby) one which favoured money and social standing over anything of real value or substance. Everything in The Great Gatsby is about hiding away true emotions or thoughts and instead presenting the world with extravagant or superfluous shows. There are several mentions in the text of performances, and the gesticulating, over-the-top theatrics of many of the characters seem to suggest that no-one is free of the desire to shut away their true, smaller self, whether in fear of failure, destruction, or that they'll fade away into obscurity.

The graphic novel does a fantastic job of capturing the heart of the novel and presenting it in a new and entirely fresh manner for audiences. Personally I would recommend reading the book in it's original form, but the writing in the graphic novel is still Fitzgerald, so even if you're receiving primarily the dialogue and the more dazzling gems of Fitzgerald's commentary, you're still receiving something remarkable indeed. The graphic novel tells the story through a series of sepia toned "photos" displayed on the black card of an album, as the narrator, Nick Carroway, recounts the events that took place while he lived on West Egg next door to the mysterious and endearing Gatsby. The representation of the illustrations as old photographs which have been treasured and serve as a reminder to Nick of the better and worst aspects of that time in his life perfectly represents the feel of the original novel. Not only do we get the nostalgic memories seeping through the turns of phrase that Fitzgerald used, or the events of the story, but the visuals used to present the story are the literal manifestation of nostalgia, old, worn, faded and bruised, yet loved. The illustrations are also used to further emphasise the fleeting nature of the whirlwind time that Nick spent in West Egg, such as the photo that has the middle (presumed to be bearing the image of a woman) torn out, which follows the statement, "I even had a short affair with a girl who worked in the accounting department, until her brother began throwing mean looks in my direction. And I let it blow quietly away."

The story of Jay Gatsby and his all consuming love for Daisy, and the events that transpire through the novel when they are finally re-introduced is lovingly replicated in this graphic novel, as is the smaller points made against the frivolity and hedonism of the jazz age and the shifting emotions of melancholy, hope, love and devotion. It's a wonderful homage to a wonderful book and I recommend picking up a copy so that you can fall headlong into the story which is sure to move you to tears, laughter, anger and contentment. A must-read for fans of graphic novels and Fitzgerald alike.


  1. Whoa! How have I never heard of this book?? Since I'm a fan of both graphic novels and Fitzgerald I must get my hands on a copy ASAP!

  2. I have such issues with Fitzgerald because I know that I love him while I'm reading him, but then afterwards I can't really remember what the book was actually about, which doesn't really seem like the hallmark of a good book to me... Solution: read, blog, remember! This graphic novel version looks really cool though, and is the film you're reviewing the one with Robert Redford? Because if it is, it literally can't be bad!

  3. It's really great Kat, I'm certain you'll love it!

    And Laura, that's the main reason I started my blog, to keep track of all the books and stories I read! Yeah I'll be rewatching the Robert Redford version, he's so swoon-worthy! I wish the remake (with Leo Dicaprio) would come out already! I've got all my fingers and toes crossed that they don't mess it up completely, but the first pictures coming out of filming all look pretty amazing.



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