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Terrible Reviews of Great Books: The Great Gatsby

one star reviews

There is no such thing as a universally loved book. Each month, we’ll feature a book from Time’s list of the best 100 English language novels of all time. From the nasty to the snarky to the downright absurd, we’ll highlight some of the strange reasons why some people hate these great reads. This month we’ll be taking a look at reviews for The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

gatsby

The Great Gatsby was first published in 1925 and is considered to be a great classic of twentieth century American fiction. In addition to making Time’s 100 list, it also is on Boxell’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. It has 5,908 reviews on Amazon with an average star rating of 4.3. Only 4% of those reviews are 1-star reviews.

I first read The Great Gatsby when I was in middle school and I hated it with a great passion so I feel some sympathy for the 268 Amazon reviewers who gave it one star. Then I read it as an adult, when I had the capacity to better understand and appreciate the novel, and I enjoyed it much more. I love Fitzgerald’s flowery style of writing and find his prose beautiful. I do think it’s a strange choice to assign it for school reading since it is the sort of book that requires a level of maturity to fully appreciate. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that many of the one-star reviews were written by students who were forced to read the book before they were fully capable of appreciating it.  Let’s take a look at a sampling of one star reviews (my comments in blue):

NOTE: I did not edit for grammar or spelling. All reviews were copied exactly as posted on Amazon. You can read all 1-star reviews here.

  • This is among the worst books I have ever read, not because of the writing, which is quite good, or character development, which is also good. In other words, qualities that should result in more than a 1-star rating. I HATE this book because it is primarily just whining, and could be solved if Gatsby would just show some courage (a trait which he obviously has having “come up from the bottom”, as it were), rather like Wuthering Heights.
  • If anything, this book is twilight without the vampires, which by the way is an equally horrendous affront to intelligent readers. Yes, because Fitzgerald wrote lots of sentences like… “You give me everything just by breathing.”
  • Beautifully written, with careful, flowing language that, despite that, couldn’t make me like it. Stupid, shallow characters that drove me insane (seriously, why was that woman sobbing over shirts? Or was it ‘symbolic’?), and a plot that annoyed me. Seriously, if I wanted to read about a bunch of drunken, entitled rich prigs and their secret, snooty hidden world, I’d pick up one of the local gossip rags.
  • Now at 70 yo I remember why I hated this crap for a book. Only elite academics would ever have urged people to read this crap…..after all these years, it is just something you “must” (gag) read. Maybe Fitzgerald should have had Gatsby say “crap” a bit more often… 
  • I’m not sure why this is such a classic. I didn’t care a whit about Gatsby. He certainly wasn’t great.
  • If you’re a rich snob who can relate to rich snob problems, maybe you’ll like it. I guess if you’re from that time period maybe you could relate, but for the other few billion people in the world, it’s not very interesting. Also not a fan of Shakespeare, I’d presume.
  • I got this book because they were making a movie from it and I thought that it would be great. The sign of all truly great literature. I was very mistaken. I need to be captured in the first few chapters and this was such a slow starter that I completely took it off my Kindle
  • Sucked! Here are the shortcomings of this book in my opinion:
    1. No pictures. Its hard to understand a story without pictures. A hint to Mr Fitzgerald if he ever plans to make a living as a writer!
    2 Gatsby was in love with this girl Daisy who, In my opinion wasn’t very nice. The author should have put nice people in his book who make their money honestly and treat each other nicely. Nobody was very nice in this book!
    3. The book was total rip off of a movie I saw a few years ago. They weren’t the same, but pretty darn close. This whole comment proves that parody is hard.
  • I was forced to read this in Junior High School. I felt then and still do that it is inappropriate for anyone younger than 25 years old., (when in doubt about which punctuation to use, use both) and maybe not even then. Your complaint seems to be more with your teacher than with Fitzgerald.
  • Aside from the Book of Mormon, this book is likely the most overrated work of fiction ever written. Fitzgerald pails in comparison to writers like George Orwell, John Irving, or Kurt Vonigut who don’t feel the need to fill (their pails?) their books with unnecessary over description. George Orwell said if a word can be cut out, always cut it out. Writing should be written how you talk and should come across easily. If this person’s writing is an indicate of how they talk, he should reconsider this last piece of advice. Fitzgerald’s abuse of description goes too far and neither makes him a genius or a good writer as many have elevated him to such levels. All it does is make his writing more tedious to read than a google user agreement. Fitzgerald’s entire life’s work is utter garbage.
  • I wish more of the characters would have died. They all deserved it. These type of books are popular with the lemmings who wish they were rich, and so badly want the lifestyle of the rich and famous. I would stereotype these people as ones who also dream of living inside a J Crew catalog. Pul…eease! Our American society is materialistic enough as it is. Says the person who missed the entire point of the book. Maybe this reviewer skipped the last few chapters?
  • Its sad that just because something is old that people automatically think its great. This book is a terrible bag of garbage full of nonsense. Its (one of my grammar pet peeves) not a classic its (again!!) just terrible crap that society thinks is good cause its (gah, you have officially killed me) old.
  • if Fitzgerald had written this book properly (no extra junk I could care less about) it would have been EXACTLY two sentences long- “I’m rich.” and “Oh, boo hoo.”

We want to hear from you! Have you read The Great Gatsby? Was it worth more than a 1 star rating for you?

21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tessa #

    I gave it only 2 stars when I read it back in the last 1990s for my book club (so I was in my 40s). I had read it in high school as well and didn’t like it then, either. I just hated all the characters and didn’t want to spend time with them. On the other hand … in 2011 I read TENDER IS THE NIGHT … also disliked all the characters but Fitzgerald’s brilliant writing earned that book 4 stars.

    Liked by 2 people

    May 27, 2016
    • Tender is the night was fantastic and one of the few times I found myself stunned by the beauty of the writing

      Liked by 1 person

      May 27, 2016
    • I read it quite young, maybe 12 years old. It was on my sister’s bookshelf (she’s 11 years older than me). I had a habit of raiding her books. I didn’t understand it at all and thought the characters were whiny and up themselves. Despite that, I still have the book!

      I was taken with Jen’s comment, “I first read The Great Gatsby when I was in middle school and I hated it with a great passion so I feel some sympathy for the 268 Amazon reviewers who gave it one star. Then I read it as an adult, when I had the capacity to better understand and appreciate the novel, and I enjoyed it much more.” I might take it off my shelf and try again. Although Tessa’s re-reading and re-disliking makes me wonder if it’s worthwhile!

      I second Tender Is The Night as the better book, but agree with Tessa that the characters were still unlikeable. I have similar problems with Fitzgerald’s chum Hemingway.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 28, 2016
  2. While I agree with your sentiment regarding the maturity level required to appreciate the writing, this is a problem that can easily be solved (Can you tell I’m business minded and from #TermSheet – Happy Birthday BTW!). In HS I was fortunate to have an excellent teacher who taught us the many of the thematic premises embedded within the plot / story. As a teenager, learning those themes made me appreciate the writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 27, 2016
    • Absolutely, I don’t disagree. I think a good teacher will make or break a student’s experience with literature (or any other subject matter). I think that getting many children and teens really engaged in reading can be a struggle (even with the best teacher). So books that require a lot of additional support to fully appreciate may not be the best to assign for young teenagers. On the other hand, required reading should challenge students and enhance learning so I feel conflicted. Thanks for the birthday wishes and the thoughtful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      May 27, 2016
  3. Happy Birthday! (from one of Dan’s newsletter subscribers)

    Liked by 1 person

    May 27, 2016
    • Thank you! Dan is very sneaky since the number of page views this morning made me think I was being spammed. I appreciate all of you stopping by and I appreciate all the birthday wishes.

      Like

      May 27, 2016
  4. like that you have brought up this book. I also read GG in high school. Did not like it (thought characters were shallow). I read it again as an adult. I appreciated the writing more but still disliked the characters and their motivations. The “old sport” thing also got on my nerves. I will try Tender is the Night. however, based on your recommendation above!

    Liked by 1 person

    May 27, 2016
  5. Tracy S #

    Happy Birthday, Jen!
    I read Gatsby in high school, and loved it, but I’ve rarely disliked an assigned book (one of those weird kids). I reread it when my son was assigned it, and still loved it. Fitzgerald’s writing style and ability to pack so much into such a short book makes this one of my all time favorites.
    But: no pictures?? And it ripped off the movie? Wow. Just…wow. Thanks for sharing these, and love the snarky comments!

    Liked by 1 person

    May 27, 2016
    • Thanks! I think that person was trying to be funny or clever. s/he failed on both counts

      Like

      May 27, 2016
    • I’m like you in almost always loving books I read in school. Gatsby was an exception. I’ve always loved classics and the types of books usually found on curriculums.

      Like

      May 27, 2016
  6. I love this feature – very entertaining!
    I read this book in High School, which was a long time ago, so I can’t really say for sure how I feel about it. At the time I remember liking, but not loving it.
    I especially like that last comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 27, 2016
  7. The Reading Bug #

    We all love a good one star Amazon review – I especially liked the one where the reviewer said he completely took it off his Kindle – as opposed to partially taking it off I suppose?

    Liked by 1 person

    May 31, 2016
  8. I read Gatsby in high school, then again a few years ago, and I didn’t know anyone even had such strong feelings about it (whether for or against) until that second time. I gave it three stars both times; I appreciate the social commentary, and I think the writing and style are just beautiful.

    My favorite review has got to be “Twilight without the vampires.” What book did this person read??? How utterly bewildering.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 31, 2016

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