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Posts Tagged ‘disillusionment’

The book (apparently semi-autobiographical) tells the story of Dick and Nicole Diver, a glamorous couple, who seem to have it all – wealth, beauty and the admiration of all who know them.  The first part of the book is set near to Marseilles, when a young, emerging film star named Rosemary Hoyt, meets the Divers and falls under their influence, quickly convincing herself that she is in love with Dick.  At the end of the first section of the book, a specific incident occurs, which has a huge impact on Nicole.  The second  section of the book then goes back to when Dick and Nicole first met, and the reader learns that all is not as it initially seemed; the circumstances of their falling in love  throw an entirely different light on their relationship.  The third section of the book deals with the disintegration of their marriage, and the how each of them deal with it.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, because I loved The Great Gatsby, and thoroughly enjoyed Flappers and Philosophers (a collection of Fitzgerald’s short stories).  However, I struggled somewhat with Tender is the Night, and at times it felt like a chore that I had to get to the end of.  I think this is partly because none of the characters are very sympathetic, or even particularly likeable.  It’s difficult not to compare Dick Diver with Jay Gatsby, but whereas with Gatsby, as we learned more about his past, it made me warm to him, with Dick, as the layers were peeled away and we learned more about the man underneath, it made me despise him.  His behaviour in the second section of the book – the ‘flashback’ section – made him appear sleazy and willing to compromise his morals.

That said, I still find Fitzgerald’s use of language to be beautiful and emotive; at times it is pure poetry, and this is what really kept me reading.  The use of the flashback worked for me, although it temporarily put the brakes on the narrative.  There is another version of the book where Fitzgerald swapped the first and second sections around, so that the story was told in chronological order.  This version was apparently not well received, and I think I can see why.  The way the book is written, we see Nicole and Dick as a couple to admire and perhaps envy, then the rug is pulled out from under us as we learn more about the origins of their relationship.  This effect would be lost if the reader knew the truth from the beginning.

My favourite part of the story was the third part of the book, where the balance of power in their marriage shifts, and only one of them benefits.  I’m glad I read the book for this final section, and because some of Fitzgerald’s descriptions of moments and feelings are so wonderfully written, but the characters did not move me at all, and my main feeling once I reached the end of it was one of relief.

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With all the hype surrounding Baz Luhrmann’s big-screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s incredible novel, it seemed like a good time to check out another adaptation – not the famous Redford/Farrow version from 1974; rather this one stars British actor Toby Stephens as Gatsby, Paul Rudd (usually better known for his comedic roles) as Nick Carraway, Mira Sorvino as Daisy, and Martin Donovan as Tom Buchanan.

This version was made for tv, and clearly had a much smaller budget that the lavish 1974 version.  In addition, some of the casting choices seem unusual, but somehow it all works and I think I actually got more out of this than it’s more famous predecessor. (There were actually two much earlier adaptations starring respectively, Warner Baxter and Alan Ladd as Gatsby, and I would certainly be interested in seeing these.)

Tony Stephens did a good job in the titular role.  His American accent was convincing and he certainly possesses the enigmatic beauty of Gatsby.  I was not so sure of Mira Sorvino as Daisy.  Basically Daisy is a shallow, self-absorbed woman who places far too much emphasis on the importance of money – this being the reason that she and Gatsby did not end up together after they first fell in love, because at the time he simply did not have enough money to keep her.  Sorvino’s portrayal is a lot softer around the edges, and had I not read the novel, I probably would have felt a fair amount of sympathy for Daisy (well, until the end of the film anyway, when she lets Gatsby take the blame for the death of a woman in a road accident, and then didn’t turn up or even send flowers to Gatsby’s funeral when the grief-stricken husband of the dead woman shoots him dead, believing him to responsible for his wife’s death).  Mia Farrow made Daisy too shrill and annoying; Sorvino makes her almost too likeable, but it’s a different interpretation, which is interesting to watch.

For me however, the two stand-out cast members were Rudd as Carraway, who is by far the most decent character of the lot, and Donovan as the brutish Tom.  Both played their roles extremely well, which in Rudd’s case particularly was important, as Nick narrates the story.

The sets are not as lavish and extravagant as some might expect (I know without having seen it, that Luhrmann is bound to go the other way, and have sets that are completely OTT), but they certainly served their purpose well enough.

As an accompaniment to the novel, this version is probably an excellent one to see – it is faithful to the story, and impressed me.  I wouldn’t call it brilliant, but I would say that it is certainly worth a watch.  The funeral of Gatsby at the end genuinely made me sad to just three mourners; just one of the hundreds of people who were happy to attend Gatsby’s house, enjoy his hospitality and consume his food and drink could be bothered to turn up.

Overall, I would recommend this.  It’s not a perfect adaptation, but it’s a faithful one, and there was plenty to enjoy.

Year of release: 2000

Director: Robert Markowitz

Producers: Delia Fine, Antony Root, Jane Tanyer, Tom Thayer, Manon Bougie, Craig McNeil, David Roessell

Writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald (novel), John McLaughlin

Main cast: Toby Stephens, Paul Rudd, Mira Sorvino, Martin Donovan, Francie Swift

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1974 film adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 2013 film adaptation.

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This classic tells the story of a weekend in the life of disaffected post-war teenager, Holden Caulfield.  Told in the first person, Holden describes how having been expelled from his 4th school, he decided to leave early and go to New York, where he spends some time before going to visit his younger sister Phoebe.

The book is fairly light on plot – not a huge deal happens, but that is not a criticism.  The pleasure in reading comes from delving into Holden’s character, and his disillusionment with the world and most people in it.  He believes that most people are “phonies” (the ultimate insult), and he doesn’t seem to feel that he really belongs anywhere.

Holden was a much more sympathetic character than I expected him to be. Rather than being cruel and cynical, as I had expected initially, the portrayal of his character shows him to be an innocent in many ways, clearly struggling with isolation and loneliness.  Clearly he has the ability to care for people (in particular he seems very fold of his siblings, especially  his younger brother Allie, who died fairly recently before the story starts, and Phoebe).  At one point he also reveals his desire to become a protector of children and reveals himself to be a caring young man who just needs to find something worth caring for.

It is clear from the outset that the main character is now held in a hospital of some sort, from which he tells the events in the book, in a ‘stream of consciousness’ style.  The character is brought to life by some brilliant writing, which really reads as though it has been written by a confused sixteen year old boy.

I was pleasantly surprised by how ‘readable’ the book was – I had expected it to be drier, but I found myself turning the pages really quickly, because I did come to care about Holden Caulfield.  The other characters in the book were harder to know, with the exception of Phoebe.  This is perhaps because we only see them from Holden’s point of view, and he doesn’t think much of most people he meets.

Overall, this is a book I am glad I finally got around to reading.  It’s also a very quick story, and well worth the few hours it took to read it.

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Quite a remarkable book, which manages to encompass a wonderful story in surprisingly few pages (less than 180).

The story is narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man who rents a house next to the mansion owned by the famous and mysterious Jay Gatsby.  Nick and Gatsby become friends, with Nick attending some of the famous parties which are held with regularity at Gatsby’s home.  Although popular, the parties are always populated by people who hardly know Gatsby (indeed, thoughout the novel it becomes apparent that Gatsby has few people in his life who he could call friends), and who like to speculate about his lifestyle.

Thrown into the mix is Daily Buchanan, Nick’s cousin, who shares a history with Gatsby.  Daisy is unhappily married to Tom Buchanan, a bullish businessman, who is embroiled in an affair with another woman.

Such a situation can never end well, and throughout the telling of the story it becomes apparent that Gatsby does not seem to be a man destined for happiness.

This book is simply wonderful; the writing is beautiful and almost poetic, with a sense of melancholy.  The characters – in particular Daisy  – are very well drawn. There is more here than the straightforward plot – this is a novel about dreams and illusions, and discontent.  It’s a fabulous read – I wish I had read it years ago, but I am certain that I will rereading it in years to come.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of the 1974 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 2000 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 2013 movie adaptation.

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