K. Woodman-Maynard presents a graphic novel adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In the 1920’s, a young man named Nick Carraway leaves his home in the Midwest for New York City. There, between shifts working in bonds, Nick befriends his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He’s fabulously wealthy, and mysterious too. He’s hoping to reignite his relationship with an old flame: Nick’s cousin Daisy. Only problem is, Daisy is married to polo athlete Tom, who has a flame of his own on the side. Nick, as both an active and unwilling participant to both affairs (including his own with golfer Jordan Baker), serves as our narrator during this ill-fated summer.
Gatsby is one of the few books that I was forced to read for school that I go back to of my own volition. The exposition and dialogue seemed lifted straight from the book to me, and this was mostly true. Woodman-Maynard explains in an author’s note at the end of the book that some wording was changed to either make more sense within the context of the graphic novel, or to make more sense to modern audiences. The text placement was odd at times. It tried to sit in the environments, and sometimes does to great effect, but at other times it’s just confusing to figure out where to read next.
Watercolor illustrations evoking magazine advertisements from the decade make up the art for this book. It is, for the most part, extraordinarily effective. The reader is fully immersed in the empty, meaningless decadence of the Roaring ’20s. The colors were bright, and the palette varied from page to page. Often, one sequence or a few pages would be in one monochromatic palette, and the next few would be in a different palette: for example, blue and yellow to pink and purple. This was effective at underscoring different moods at differing points of the story. There are full pages signifying chapter breaks, and these are among the best illustrations in the book.
Visual metaphors add an element of playfulness to the book as well. The first time Nick meets Daisy and Jordan, they are depicted as literally floating down to the couches where they’re resting. It seemed to me that the qualities of the writing were emphasized more than anything else. Some things, such as the green light or J.T. Eckleberg’s billboard, seemed oddly not emphasized.
Overall, this was a lovely adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.” The illustrations were perfectly suited for the times the story takes place in. Some of the text placement, and missing emphasis on important story elements, were confusing or off-putting for me. For high school students, this is a perfectly suitable first introduction.
Woodman-Maynard, K. The Great Gatsby: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. 2021.