Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Real Daisy Buchanan

I just finished Gatsby's Girl by Caroline Preston, and it made me want to pick up The Great Gatsby again. This time, though, instead of focusing on Jay Gatsby and his obsession with former flame Daisy, I would want to re-evaluate Daisy herself. What kind of woman was she? What quality did she have that made Gatsby idealize her and be unable to let her go after all those years?

To get an insight into Daisy and Gatsby as teenagers and into what kind of woman Daisy became, check out Gatsby's Girl. There's a note in the back explaining what was true and what was fictionalized, but save that for last. Read this book with the idea that this girl, Ginevra Perry, was the inspiration for Daisy and indeed for several women in F. Scott Fitzgerald's books.

Ginevra is a self-centered, spoiled socialite in Chicago, the boarding school roommate of a friend of Scott's. The two meet at a party, hit it off, and write thick, romantic letters to each other over a course of several months. They only see each other a few times, and eventually Ginevra loses interest. She gets married, has babies, and moves on with her life, while Scott becomes a famous author and a drunkard with a mentally unstable wife and a child he doesn't quite know what to do with.

Mostly this book for me was a question of what if? What would Ginevra's life have been like if she hadn't settled for her mediocre husband? What would Scott's life have been like if he'd married the love of his life, Ginevra? What might the real Fitzgerald's life have been like if he'd married the love of his life, Ginevra?

Gatsby's Girl isn't the most stimulating read; at just over 300 pages it goes quickly and doesn't have much of a lasting impact, but while you're into it it should make you think. What kind of life does Ginevra want? Why does she cut out articles about Scott and scissor scenes from his books and save them for years? Why does Scott continue to use episodes from their time together in his stories and novels? Where they really each other's first loves? Should they have stayed together?

It's also fascinating, knowing what kind of life F. Scott Fitzgerald led, to speculate what might have happened if the real Scott and Ginevra had stayed together. Might he have stayed sober and lived longer, able to write dozens of Great American Novels?

It would be interesting to read The Great Gatsby in light of Gatsby's Girl, but Gatsby's Girl is an intriguing read on its own. Check it out if you're in the mood for something fast and light with a dose of literary merit.

thanks to sterling cut glass for the photo