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Gatsby at Trinity by Ian Flintoff
Review by Ian Senior
In The Great Gatsby a reference is made to Jay Gatsby spending a short time at Trinity. At this point Ian Flintoff (’57) takes over the narrative. The Great War is finished and Gatsby has distinguished himself as a captain with the US forces. However he has not yet been discharged from active service and for reasons that may not be made obvious in the original plot he spends a term or so at Trinity. Ian Flintoff seizes the opportunity to conjure up a brilliant story within the original story to explain and describe what happened.
Gatsby, we learn, has been chosen by the powers that be in the military to spend time at Oxford as something of a bridge-building exercise to strengthen Anglo-American relations and to reward some of the best American soldiers with what might almost be thought of as rest and recuperation after active service in the trenches.
In Gatsby at Trinity, using the style of Scott Fitzgerald, Ian Flintoff depicts the experiences of Gatsby as he arrives at Trinity in the age of jazz, wealth and cloche hats worn by Charleston-dancing flappers. He meets some real Trinity people, not least of all the redoubtable scout Cadman (“Cadders”) known to myself and decades of undergraduates, and Tommy Norrington, himself an undergraduate at the time and later to become President of Trinity in Ian’s and my day.
Gatsby’s time at Trinity is happy to the point of being idyllic were it not for his enforced separation from Daisy Fay, his soul-mate girlfriend with whom he plans marriage based on the creation of huge wealth. But she won’t wait for him and when she writes to him announcing her engagement to someone else this coincides with the end of his time at Trinity. Yet, he remains determined to make a huge fortune, whether through shady bond trading or selling liquor during a pending period of prohibition. Thus he still hopes to win back Daisy for himself.
This book is an incredibly good read and particularly so for Trinitarians who enjoyed The Great Gatsby. I look forward to seeing the book on display regularly in the future including Blackwells which several times is referred to as Gatsby’s much patronised book-seller.
Some readers will remember Ian Flintoff’s excellent short play about Terence Rattigan (1930), Terence at Trinity, which was performed at the Trinity weekend, 2011. Gatsby at Trinity has all the ingredients of another play.
by Ray Furness