By Danielle Ganek
Available now from Viking (Penguin)
I'll be honest: I didn't like F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY. I thought his writing was overly self-conscious and it took me out of the story. Many of my classmates and the teacher, however, found it to be truly romantic.
That would be Peck, the older half-sister who just inherited their Aunt Lydia's ramshackle Fool's House. Her boyfriend Miles gave it to her and she read it over and over during their relationship, holding late night conversations about the book with him. It would also be Cassie (Stella, as Peck calls her), who read it to the point of memorization. Each summer she read a different book at Aunt Lydia's house.
THE SUMMER WE READ GATSBY does interesting things with memory, as both Stella and Peck encounter men they first met that summer. Miles claims to have never read Gatsby. While I don't want to spoil anything, Cassie doesn't even recognize the man she reencounters because her memories were so distorted! Of course, there's also the memory of Aunt Lydia. Now living in her house, the girls realize how little they knew about her past. What is the great treasure she mentioned in her will?
Some things, like the beautiful and quirky Fool-in-Residence seem like something that would only occur in a book. (The author seems caught between supporting the arts and laughing at contemporary art.) Others, like Cassie and Peck's steadily improving relationship seem real and emotionally effective. I thought Danielle Ganek created a nice balance between the two.
THE SUMMER WE READ GATSBY is the kind of summer book I like. It's fully of silly ostentatiousness, although Cassie and Peck are both strapped for cash, sudden romance, and an absorbing setting. Fool's House sounds like a fun place to live even if Southhampton sounds a little crazy. And I do like characters who love classic literature - even if it isn't the same classic lit I love.