The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek

This one I picked up because I have a literary fetish, and anything with an allusion to reading in the title must be read. Backwards and bizarre, I know.

This is made even MORE bizarre by the fact that I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, and I didn’t know anything about it until I looked it up on Sparknotes and read the plot summary.

Good to go.

I really enjoyed this book. I really did. It’s about two sisters (another big thing for me, sister books must be read) who inherit a place called Fool’s House in New York. The Hamptons of New York. I don’t know much about NY, but The Hamptons is apparently “snob hill,” to borrow to Tramp’s vocabulary. This place is populated by horrendously tacky mansions and hilariously gay British-and-Scotsmen, but Fool’s House was sort of…. something once grand, that had fallen into a state of disrepair. It was “ramshackle.”

The sisters (actually half-sisters who technically don’t know each other very well), by declaration of the will, must live in the house together for one month while sorting out the estate of their dead Aunt Lydia, who left them the house. The summary is actually very similar to Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, which I read last summer. But there are big differences between the two which I won’t go into now because that book is not fresh in my mind, whereas I finished this one about seven minutes ago. I do try to hold to my word whenever possible.

I did like this book right away. For the first thirty pages I thought, This is like reading a chick flick. And I have a crippling weakness for chick flicks. It did evolve though, and I’m happy to say that while it was comfortably predictable in some places and glaringly predictable in others, the meat of the book stayed interesting and there never was a dull moment. And the ending WAS unpredictable. I did not see that going down.

The story was narrated by the younger Moriarty sister, named Stella Blue, after the Grateful Dead song, who prefers to be called Cassie, not that her sister cares. Her sister’s name is Pecksland, called Peck. Which I liked. Stella is a writer for a magazine in Switzerland, where she grew up, and an aspiring novelist. Peck is an aspiring actress socialite with a literary fetish. (Yes, I did steal the term for the review, and yes, I do believe it describes me, because guys with books are hot.)

Speaking of literary fetishes- I would like to interject here that I read a short story a time ago which was all about gay boys and Shakespeare (yes, I know, I know), and I don’t even have to go look it up again to remember this conversation verbatim:

“Dude, you have a boner for Shakespeare.”
“….A literary boner.”

I couldn’t not mention that in this post.
Honestly though, one of my favorite things about this book was that it was littered with delicious bits of classic literature and art history, which I should study a bit more but am quite fond of. Aunt Lydia was an English teacher during her life, so there is quite the talk of good books while reminiscing about crazy Aunt Lydia. I also learned quite a bit about Jackson Pollock that I didn’t know. And this is literally like candy to me. I love finding those sorts of things when I read.

So, started out feeling like a chick flick, but that soon dissolved, mostly because romance was a large part of the plot (I mean, Stella, Peck, AND their gay Brit friend all needed to get hitched) but romance wasn’t the point that the plot revolved around. Mostly it was about two very, very different women learning how to live together and love each other and to always drive their life creatively, with a lot of spontaneity, like Aunt Lydia would have wanted.

And there’s some art theft and antique guns involved.

And lots of parties.

Oh, and their gay friend sort of shows up at their house naked.

And fake vomit…

And a dog named Trimalchio.

And breasts called ‘the twins.’

It was a very fun book. I laughed out loud and spent quite a bit of time grinning to myself, which is why the ending was sort of like a stone dropping through my entire being. Rather dark. But that lasted for all of two pages before it was blown away and made light-hearted again.

And the epilogue was narrated by Peck, which I enjoyed because she was VERY different from Stella. Although in all factuality (words, words, words), a large portion of the book was about Stella maturing and budding and learning to party and love like a New Yorker, and she considered herself a much healthier person by the end of the book.

To sum it up, this book is a feel-good novel, and it did make me feel good. I spent a lot of my week wishing that I were reading it. It has a hopeful beginning, an exciting middle, and a happy ending, and a lot of otherness going on in there, too. There was so much going on that I am absolutely and utterly failing to describe it. I should stop now, because this is literally stream-of-consciousness, and I’m typing as the thoughts enter my head.

Anyway. The Summer We Read Gatsby is pure escapism and I guess that’s what I needed right now. I really, really enjoyed it, and I do recommend it. Especially to my own sister. Yes, I think she would like it.

I have two new books sitting on the table by my chair, which I got from the library earlier (I wasn’t INTENDING to, but I’m very glad I did because neither of the books I’ve been waiting for have arrived yet), and I was happily surprised to hear that my Dad decided to buy me a book off of Amazon, which apparently just arrived. It’s an interesting man’s personal reflections on photography, called Camera Lucida, and it looks very interesting. I love photography books. I’ve been neglecting my camera lately.

Ta-ta for now.

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Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 11:46 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sounds interesting, I might check this out if I ever get into the mood to read ANYTHING longer than 50,000 words in the next few months (read the link btw, totally awesome; very well-timed too since I saw Deserter last night)

    Chick flick books are almost as good as chick flick movies. I’m not saying this coz I’m movie-chick and you’re book-chick but because in chick-flick ANYTHING I tend to oggle at the pretty men that appear in it and in films that’s easier to do 😄

    I can’t wait till your next review. You should advertise your blog more though, I think more people would like it if they knew about it.

    All from me this time. Looking forward to catching you online tomorrow morning!!~

    • It’s interesting you mentioned that, because I totally cast the love interest as James Marsden. Ohyes.

      Why should I advertise my blog, you do so much of it for me. 😛 Also, I’ve got nowhere TO advertise it except on Facebook, and I doubt any of my ‘friends’ are interested. Which is alright because not everyone likes to read book reviews. And not everyone has a literary fetish.

      I enjoy writing them, though, even as I’m going, “This is utter shit it doesn’t even make sense is it impossible for me to form a coherent thought for more than one sentence?”

      • Woman, if you think that you should read my latest movie review 😄 pure and utter crap I kid you not, but I had to write SOMETHING. Before you ask, no, I haven’t seen yours yet. But I have them and I remember.

        And yea, advertise on Facebook, on dA… anywhere really =) and I shall continue to advertise for you as long as you continue to post 😉 now… if only the damn mail would hurry up 😄

  2. […] four I already have? Such was the case for this book. And you all know I can’t resist books about […]


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