Am I there in that French hotel, associated with the "flatness that comes over American travellers in quiet foreign places" (12)? Am I sitting there voyeuristicaly staring behind the pages of this book, following this soon to be woman and her mother? I am watching their slightly too involved or obsessive relationship; the daughter too attached, too afraid to be someone separate and real, and the mother who knows this and will change this. I am amidst the wealthy and those who claim to be, those who drop names that might associate them with the elite, but not be the elite. I am in a very different place than my living room or backyard porch or teaching a class. The world that Fitzgerald creates is one that exists, probably, but rarely to those who read this book; even the names are odd and distant from the reader's reality. We are meant to be part of the crowd looking at a centerpiece. In one sense we are in a different world in terms of time; 1925, but in another sense we are in a different fold of the universe, a crevice of an alternate mentality and daily rituals; where one goes here or there as they please, to this country or that. Where one speaks every language well enough and spare moments are everywhere. And in those spare moments, Rosemary might browse a memoir on a Russian princess while taking in the sun on a beach full of strangers who claim to know her because they have seen her in a movie. Perhaps this is the face of Hollywood, circa 1925. One wonders, where is home?
Description is everywhere. A whole chapter dedicated to a taste or the appearance of the curtains in a room. Though I believe Hemingway to be in a completely different league, the imagery is similarly intense and complex. However, the novel is slow to read. Chapters are seemingly completely different stories from the chapter before until a link is made to a known character. Entire chapters center on gossip, lying outside of importance. Moments turned into paragraphs and paragraphs of description. I get it.
Despite the many interesting aspects of the story; the imagery and exploration of small moments capitalized on, this seems to be a story about nothing. There is so much knowledge here; so many profound thoughts perhaps wasted in trivial matters. However it may be likely that the reader is supposed to feel this way, and if that is so, it is brilliant.
Several weeks have passed since I have read or written about this novel, but I just can't take this intellectual writer writing about nothing any longer. I am only on page 87, please feel free to tell me I am wrong; that the book is worth reading, that I didn't get far enough; that I quit before I reaped the benefits. I chose this one because, well it is F. Scott Fitzgerald after all! The novel is supposed to mirror his own life in many ways, particularly the wife of one of the main characters who has some sort of mental illness. Fitzgerald's own wife herself had a mental illness which became Fitzgerald's struggle as well. Interesting, yes, but the actual story bores me to pieces. I cannot take this island of nothing any longer; I am taking the next ferry out. Up to this point, the book has no relevance to anything I have ever encountered...ever.