Great by Sara Benincasa

Posted on June 18, 2014 by Regina | 1 Comment

Everyone loves a good scandal.

Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta's carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape.

Based on a beloved classic and steeped in Sara Benincasa's darkly comic voice, Great has all the drama, glitz, and romance with a terrific modern (and scandalous) twist to enthrall readers.

Part of me wishes I had spent the money I blew on this book on some US Weekly or OK! gossip mags instead.

I never understood what was so great about The Great Gatsby. I read and analysed it my junior year of high-school just like everyone else, and I read it with great expectations because of the  reputation that proceeded it. The story just never hit the mark for me, even when I reread it a couple of years ago. I went into Great with a neutral mindset.

If you LOVED The Great Gatsby because of the time period it was set in, you will dislike this book. If you just plain hated TGG and thought it was boring, you might love this book. It could go either way, really. So let me give prospective readers of Great a piece of advice; don’t read this book expecting it to be a clever retelling or something profound. Just go with it and maybe have fun drawing parallels or figuring out which character represents who from The Great Gatsby.

The setting and situations reminded me of the vacuous/plotting/back-stabbing kind of people featured in the television show Revenge, also set in The Hamptons, but not nearly as entertaining.

The characters in Great never quite filled the shoes of Nick, Daisy or Jay Gatsby. I can’t even remember the character’s names, to be honest, but I do remember that our narrator had the most god-awful mother that took up too much space in this story in my opinion. Every time the narrator started talking about or engaging with her mother, I almost gave up on the book.

The pacing of Great seemed laborious and LONG-ASS chapters almost sent this book to an early grave for me. In fact, I almost let this book die 137 pages in, but pushed on for the sake of reviewing it.

 Nobody should have to wait until page 138 of a 263 paged book before it starts to get good. The first 137 pages earned themselves a solid 1, maaaaybe 1.5 stars from me. But the momentum, intrigue and writing seemed to pick up soon after, ultimately pushing  me to give Great a 2.5 star rating.

If I go into any detail about the plot, it would include spoilers. If you’ve read the classic that Great is based on, then you know enough to make an educated guess early on in the book as to what spin the author puts on this American tale.

This book kind of reminded me of a stand-up comic who goes through a tortuous amount of awkward, shotty material in front of an audience before hitting her stride. And by then, what little kernels of good material the comic does have, it doesn’t make up for the latter.

Have you read Great? How did you feel about the book?

One StarOne StarHalf a Star
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Classical music nerd by day, freelance writer and blogger by night. When I review books, I don't dish out and rehash every character and detail. What's the point of reading a book if you give most of the deets away in a review??? My reviews are more about my impressions and over all experience with the book. I am also a world-renowned armchair psychologist, and love to psychoanalyze authors.
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