Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald // Book Review

After reading Gatsby, I needed another Fitzgerald fix, so I picked up two more of his books: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories, which I'll be talking about today, but also The Beautiful And Damned, which I am yet to read. We all know how I feel about Fitzgerald, don't we? The man wrote Gatsby, the most exquisitely-written book of all time, for God's sake. But sadly, we're going to have to put my affection for the man aside for the duration of this book review.

These short stories were not what I expected. Most of them are set just around or just after wartime in America, when the country, despite everything, was quite affluent; and glamour and consumerism prevailed. Although I loved and continue to love the way Fitzgerald writes about wealth, love, indecisiveness and even women, I could not relate to the setting at all and I think this was my main obstacle. If I could have looked past that, maybe I would have enjoyed the stories. In reality, I couldn't understand the contextual irony or humour. Fitzgerald wrote anecdotes about the wealthy living in the Jazz Age, but I don't think his writing translated so that an eighteen year old girl - who knows next to nothing about late 1800s-early 1900s - living in the modern age, could comprehend all the little digs. In the same way that some people in my AS English Lit class couldn't understand the humour of Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest. I would compare it to that. Unless I did understand it and it just didn't work for me.

I have scoured the internet for the reviews of other people who have read these stories, in the hopes that they could shed some light on exactly what meant by them; but it doesn't appear to be an edition that is widely read. In the review I managed to find, the author said she enjoyed the title story and Head and Shoulders best, although that was one of the stories I particularly disliked. I get that the ending was ironic, with a kind of role-reversal within the couple, but I just thought it was forgettable and kind of a rubbish story. Out of all seven, my favourite was probably The Cut-Glass Bowl, but I wouldn't recommend it. In my opinion, it was just the best of a bad bunch. However, in Fitzgerald's defence, I prefer first-person writing, whereas all of these stories were in third person. I don't know, I just prefer a consciousness and being able to get into the narrator's thoughts more. I don't like being on the outside looking in, as it were.

Even through the blandness of the stories, I still found myself admiring good old Fitzgerald and the way he writes women. In many ways, they are flawed: bossy, demanding, indecisive and even selfish. But Fitzgerald somehow makes the reader ignore the negative attributes, or see the beauty in them, so that they become endearing. In his stories, the women are still beautiful creatures to be envied and sought after. I can't explain how he does that, and it is one of my favourite things about him. That still existed in this book as much as it did in GatsbySo, to conclude, I would just like to say that this review is not a reflection of Fitzgerald or a critique of his writing style. What happened here was that, as a reader, I just didn't get it, but if you're a fan of really simple anecdotes and you enjoy third-person writing, this might be one for you. 

Rating: 1/5 stars.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories is the 10th book I've read this year. To see my progress, become my friend on Goodreads, or for more reviews, see my book review page

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