Review Blog

Sep 25 2007

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2007
(a graphic adaptation by Nicki Greenberg)
I came to this book with some trepidation, not knowing how someone could even give thought to changing a stalwart of literature to a graphic novel, and with strange creatures representing the characters. But I was engrossed, not quite from the start, but it certainly took me in the more I read. Drawn as a powder puff on a twig with a female body at the end of a long neck the wonderful character of Daisy, evokes our sympathy as she is revealed with all her insecurities and regrets, the epitome of a vacuous existence, the woman we all have seen splashed across the pages of women's magazines.

Her husband the brutish Tom, is drawn as a great lump of a man, hair sprouting from his chest and arms, elephant ears, beady eyes, and pig like teeth. Gatsby is an ephemeral sea dragon, with small eyes that peer lovingly at Daisy, always worried lest he do the wrong thing in her eyes. He lives only for her, his house and lifestyle built around the possibility of seeing her.

Each page has between 4 and 6 cartoons, drawn in sepia tones on a black background, with stamp like edging, like photos in an old album. Moth-like the characters play out their lives against the backdrop of 1920's New York, the Jazz Age, where new money is viewed suspiciously, but everyone comes to Gatsby's to be seen and exploit his generosity. For those who read only the graphic novel, the retelling is short but explicit, for those who go on to the novel, then the experience will be enhanced through reading both versions. For the astute teacher, reading the novel would be enhanced with this graphic version, giving as it does an updated view of the characters, a more modern perspective. The discussions emanating from such a comparison would be enthralling.

There have been several articles about this graphic novel worth pursuing. Magpies (September 2007) has an article by the graphic artist about her book, and The Sunday Age (August) also has a long article about Nicki Greenberg and her work. Both would be worthwhile as background for the class studying this novel.
Fran Knight

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