The Summer We Read Gatsby - Danielle Ganek

When two estranged sisters inherit a Hamptons beach house, they search for fortune but find love instead. Cassie and Peck are half sisters with little in common beyond a shared last name--that is, until their beloved aunt Lydia bequeaths them equal shares of her ramshackle old cottage in the Hamptons with instructions to "seek the thing of utmost value" within it. Cassie and Peck fantasize about discovering a lost Jackson Pollock, or a first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, as they revel in one last summer of fabulous parties and nostalgia.

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Pecksland "Peck" Moriarty, an NYC theater actor, gets invited to a summer Gatsby-themed party in the Hamptons. She convinces her half sister Stella Blue (named after the Grateful Dead song) Swiss to go with her because Peck is nervous that a certain fella she has a history with is going to be at the party and Peck doesn't want to face him alone. This guy, Miles Noble... Peck makes him out to be a modern-day Jay Gatsby, all slick, smart, funny, wealthy & well-traveled. Stella's never met him before, only heard the legendary tales her sister spins about him, Peck going so far as to say there's something Jim Morrison about Miles. Quite the description to live up to, right? But upon first seeing him, Stella's first gut reaction is "he looks exactly like a frog." LOL ohh those evil love blinders! So starts a summer of Peck & Stella discovering what they really want out of men and life. 

 

What's the importance of summer for these two sisters? Well, Stella explains her lifelong tendency to categorize summer memories by what memorable reads end up coming from the box of books her English teacher aunt sends her each summer season. The summer of 2001 proves to be "the summer of Gatsby, Woody Allen and Jackson Pollack", Stella and Peck being in their 20s. It's also the summer they're left Fool's House, the Hamptons estate of their rich, eccentric aunt Lydia. While trying to figure out what they want to do with this property -- keep, sell, what? -- they decide to have an epic summer of romance, parties, sister bonding time and general summer fun. There's also a light mystery woven into the story regarding a theft. 

 

To be 100% honest here, I only picked this book up out of mild curiosity because F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favorite writers and I was wondering how his most famous book would be worked into the plot. Also, the book was priced stupid cheap, so I figured it was worth a shot. Never know, right? Well, it's not literary fiction by any means. I doubt you'll bump into anything profound in its pages, but in it's favor, it never pretends to be more than a beach read. And for being what it is, it's a decent good time for an afternoon out. 

 

There were a few things that annoyed me as far as some of the characterization. For instance, Peck was just a mountain of affectations. But at least she has a small moment of self awareness later that makes a nod to this. Also, the dialogue in general, at least whenever a group of people would form, was insanely vapid. You can also expect to see a fair amount of "literally" being used hyperbolically as well as some truly cringe-worthy pretentious, irony-laden conversations. But then again, the plot is focused on partying in the Hamptons for the summer, soo.... ;-) That being said, there's also something a little tongue-in-cheek about the tone of the novel, almost like Ganek saying I know it sounds ridiculous, I meant it that way. I'll give her that. Doesn't mean I didn't still find it annoying lol. 

 

While most of the story is told from Stella's perspective, I found Peck's version of events in the Epilogue to be really cute. It really plays on how sisters can be with each other -- or how I've seen sisters interact anyway, not  having one myself. 

 

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Note To Readers: I thought I would mention a couple French phrases that are used in this book and note the translations here, in case you were not familiar with them --

 

coup de foudre = literally translates to "a bolt of lightning" or "thunderbolt" but conversationally typically refers to a sudden, unexpected event

 

comme il faut = correct in behavior or etiquette, in line with social standards or expectations