Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books.  It's one of those books that is short enough that it can be read in a day or two, and I admit, I've read it several times.  Such a beautiful book.  So when I saw the title of this book, I was intrigued.  I didn't know much about the book before I picked it up at the library -- I sort of like diving into a book without a clue as to what it is about.

Within the first few pages, it is mentioned that Cassie, or Stella, depending on who's talking to her, is feeling sad and a bit weepy thinking of the aunt she's lost, even though she'd not spent much time with her in recent years.  Immediately I bonded with this character, understanding too well what it was like to hover under a cloud of grief caused by the loss of an aunt who played an integral role in my childhood.  Months later and still I'm never prepared for the cloud bursts and raining tears that start up without warning.  As silly as it sounds, as soon as I read that part about Cassie missing her aunt, I felt that there was a reason for me to read this book even if that reason was simply to have someone - albeit a fictional someone - with which to commiserate.

The story is about two half sisters who inherit their aunt's house in the Hamptons.  Their aunt, Lydia, asked them to sell the house and split the profits because there is no way they can afford the upkeep on the house.  In a letter she mentions that she hopes they find within the house a "thing of value."  The sisters assume this to be an object of value and are on a quest to locate this object within the house. 

Truth is, there isn't much of a story here, not a whole lot happens.  The sisters go to parties, they hang out with their friends, they talk about the house and the things inside the house but not a lot happens.  At moments you think there is going to be something of a mystery and even a hint of danger involving the strange artist living in the house.  But the mystery develops into more of a comedy and the danger never materializes like I thought it would.  I don't want to give anything away, but I will warn to not expect much to develop with regard to suspense or mystery.  But that's fine, I didn't feel that the lack of action or any big dramatic storyline took anything away from this book because the characters are such interesting people.

I loved the characters in this story, the two very different sisters and the eccentric neighbors.  Even the aunt, only there in their memories, seemed to be someone that everyone would have enjoyed being around.  She was single and had no children, she taught literature at a boys school in New York City and she loved Paris and books and art and artists.  (Do you see why I liked this aunt?)  The novel is filled with a cast of amusing, clever, and likable characters.  Also, besides the many references to literature and Gatsby in particular, there are several art references, mostly about Jackson Pollock.  I wanted to be inside this book, having a "dressing" drink with Peck and Cassie.  I wanted to live their life and spend the summer at Fool's House with them.

I was sad when the story was over.  I wasn't ready for it to end.  I wanted to know more.

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