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‘The Great Gatsby’ earned a glowing review, so I know we’ve got plenty of F. Scott Fitzgerald fans around here. But I also know that there are a lot of reasons why people are drawn to the story, from the captivating but flawed characters with their impossible situations to the glamour of their New York.
I’ve picked out three classic novels, also from the 20th Century, and two fictional histories set in Fitzgerald’s time, which will sweep you up in a world of extravagance and impossibility.
In a plot that shares a couple of similarities with Gatsby, the upper middle class narrator of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ becomes enchanted by the decadent Sebastian Flyte and his family while studying at Oxford. We watch as he relives his experiences after the end of the era, seeing both their glories and their paths of destruction.
Waugh was inspired by his own wartime experiences and the end of the Bright Young Things he had previously written about. I think it shows, as we watch these glittering party kids change due to circumstances that can’t be avoided and others of their own doing.
What is it about glamorous but unreachable New Yorkers? There’s no doubt that ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a book that loves the Empire State, so let’s skip forwards and see how up and coming socialites are living a few years later.
The distant but magnetic Holly Golightly catches the eye of the narrator, who moves into the same apartment block when he arrives in New York City. But it’s not easy to strike up a relationship with a girl whose dates usually pay for the time they spend together.
This one’s a thriller, which shouldn’t really fit the Gatsby profile, but in some ways it feels surprisingly similar. If you’re looking for another tale of obsession and conflicting indicators of social ranking, read on.
A twenty-something drop-out lives on his wits in Greece, spending his inheritance money and getting by with his flawless language skills. He’s about to meet an American conman and his wife who are determined to life a life of luxury while on the run from authorities. It’s all going to plan, until the conman accidentally kills an agent sent to question them, binding these strange characters together.
Part of the fascination is the author, whose name you’d know even if you’d never so much as touched the cover of one of his books.
You may or may not like my following picks, because fictionalised accounts of historical events aren’t for everyone. I can only read them if I make a special mental category of things that are slightly factual, slightly not – but that’s good enough for me.
Two authors are about to take us back to the early 20th Century, where we’ll meet a few of the people from Fitzgerald’s circles.
Paula McLain imagines life from the perspective of Hemingway’s wife as she gets to grips with life at the heart of the Paris literary scene. Among the real life figures we meet along the way are Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, sending us into one influential phase in all the authors’ lives.
The writing echoes the rhythm of the ‘Great American Novel’ as you’d find it in Hemingway or Fitzgerald’s work, setting a pace that the reader can’t meddle with. And this is probably an unintended consequence, but with the main players coming from a similar society, you’ll spot similar character traits to the ‘Gatsby’ line-up.
Caroline Preston profiles F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first love and sometime muse. We meet the author as a teen who falls for the slightly younger Ginevra, and the author takes us on an imagined turn as we watch Ginevra uncovering the similarities between herself and characters like Daisy Buchanan.
We just can’t move for cocktails and destruction in here today, but would you like an introduction to a captivating fictional character, or a real one? Personally, I go through phases of each, so I’ll pick one from each side of the desk and go for ‘Gatsby’s Girl’ and ‘Brideshead Revisited’.
Know exactly which books similar to ‘The Great Gatsby’ you’d add to the list?
Let us in on your favourites in the comments.
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