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The Great Gatsby – A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Authored by K. Woodman-Maynard based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published by Walker Books

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The Great Gatsby – A Graphic Novel Adaptation is a creative retelling of Jay Gatsby’s tragic story, accessible and relevant to an entirely new audience and generation. We follow the mysterious and enigmatic self-made millionaire’s doomed pursuit of past lover, Daisy Buchanan, through the story’s narrator, Nick Garraway. However, the graphic format makes the whole narrative feel more dynamic and transformative. In this form, the reader can ‘wander’ through the pages alongside Garraway.  

The roaring ‘20s is an era renowned for its jazz, excess and chaos, although this setting, both physical and historical, is not one likely to be familiar to the younger, modern British reader of primary age. Presenting the story in a graphic format allows the reader to pause, revisit and really see the mayhem surrounding the characters in a truly unique way. Woodman-Maynard has thought out every overlapping panel and shift between distance and close-up to allow us to feel a small part of the confusion of the era and the life these character’s lead. I love that the full page spreads capture private clarity during moments of utter chaos, the middle of an excessive party, reaching for a light or death. It takes the bending and breaking of social norms for the reader to see the characters candidly.

Although I enjoyed this version, I felt that the colour palette let the overall presentation down. The setting is arguably an important character in its own right, presenting the bright greens and golds of the art deco style associated with the historical era. The muted tones dampened the charisma of the setting and limited the impact of The Green Light. In turn, this reduced the impact of one of the most important discussion points for me; the representation of money, wealth and greed through the colours green and gold. Money is literally woven into the fabric of this story, and I expected something brighter and more ‘in-your-face’, in keeping with the character of the 1920s, to reflect this.

Delicately, Woodman-Maynard nods at infidelity and the use of narcotics without any direct references leaving this down to teacher choice as to whether you gloss over or address these issues directly. Where this story always comes into its own in any version is, as I have mentioned above, the presentation of wealth and inequality. Considering the current political and economic landscape, these are significant, relevant issues for our young people today. 

Woodman-Maynard’s retelling of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a great way to introduce young readers to this classic story, providing many significant moments for discussion in class.