The rueLife: Culture
Great: Sara Benincasa
A modern twist on the classic novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Great brings many of the classic motifs and symbols of its frame, but with a twist—- the three main characters are female.
During the year, our narrator, Naomi Rye, comes from a modest upbringing. Her parents are divorced, and she lives with her father in Chicago. Her summers, however, are a different story. Her mother is self-absorbed, cupcake chef Ann Rye and who is beloved by the food television audience/ general public. Together each summer, Naomi and Ann coexist unpeacefully in an enormous “cottage” in East Hampton. Naomi, understandably, would rather be in Chicago with her father, a down to earth basketball coach, and her off the beaten path best friend Skags; the pretention that is following her mother around to award shows & gala events is not her world.
This particular summer, however, Naomi’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of next door neighbor and infamous teen blogger Jacinta Trimalchio. Masked by the black mirror of her computer screen, Jacinta has made herself known at swanky New York City prep schools by documenting the day to day (and night to night) lives of the young, rich, and beautiful—following one socialite closer than the rest.
Delilah Fairweather, the supermodel daughter of a Republican Senator, and Naomi are acquainted though their mothers’ social circles. The pair have always been superficially friendly, but during any other summer, no one would really call them friends. This summer, though, nothing is normal—and when Delilah introduces Naomi to Jeff, her overblown boyfriend’s best friend on an extravagant helicopter ride from NYC to the Hamptons— Naomi begins to see the merits of this life she struggled against for so long.
From the very beginning of this unusual summer, Naomi uncovers more secrets about her East Hampton counterparts— mostly that Jacinta is very intrigued in the life and times of Delilah Fairweather—and Delilah’s boyfriend is less than pleased about this new relationship.
Through such secrets, glamorous parties, and her first fling, Naomi becomes part of the opulent East Hampton lifestyle, but finds herself too heavily involved in the end.
For anyone who enjoys classic novels, but also enjoys reading between the lines to figure out the deeper meaning of a story, Great by Sara Benincasa will be a great (ha) read for you. All the classic motifs are there (the green light of Jacinta’s laptop was my favorite).
The twist in the characters makes for a very unique reading experience because even though there is gender fluidity in the three main characters from the work that inspired Great, the personalities in the character’s strengths and weaknesses remain the same. This goes to show, that no matter what era one is in and no matter one’s gender, we are all idiots when it comes to love.