I totally get it. Being utterly fascinated by a character in the book and wanting to know more. Jean Rhys did too if The Wide Sargasso Sea is anything to go by. So she upped and wrote a book about a character from Jane Eyre. In this novel from Michael Farris Smith he’s taken Nick Caraway, he of Great Gatsby fame and created an utterly absorbing fiction around Scott Fitzgerald’s narrator.
Is it essential to have read the Great Gatsby to enjoy this novel? No, I don’t think so. Whilst there are references towards the end of the book this is Nick’s story and his alone. However it has made me want to read Gatsby all over again! It is many years since I read it but my appetite is whetted. Is that part of the motivation for writing this book? To try and gain a whole new legion of Gatsby and Fitzgerald fans by offering a gripping fiction based on one of the characters? Who knows and does it matter?!
This story works regardless. It’s a riveting tale of a man emerging from the horrors of World War 1. Nick seems unable to face going home initially and he ends up in New Orleans where he is trying to make some sense out of his wartime experiences and what they have done to him. Nick presents as a great romantic and therefore quintessentially at odds with the merest concept of war and conflict.Pursuing doomed romances, though, seem to be his forte, but he is nothing if not persistent and, I suppose, loyal.
As I guess is evident in Gatsby Nick allows himself to become involved in the intrigues and dilemmas of others. Compassion and a desire to seek what is right seems to be at the heart of his initial motivation but it is never plain sailing. The issues of these other characters form the meat of the story in terms of action and mystery. The exposition nestles alongside the development of Nick as a character. It’s a pleasing balance.
Farris Smith has an eye for detail that enriches a narrative. Not over embellished it supports the unfolding of events with a depth that good storytellers seem to instinctively bring to their work. So the prose flows almost effortlessly as the story gains momentum.
So call this what you like fan fiction, a backstory it doesn’t matter. It works. It’s a thoroughly immersive and enjoyable read. But I still want, no I need, to re read The Great Gatsby.
My thanks to Lisa Gooding, the Publicity Director at No Exit Press for gifting me an early proof.