Cover Image: NICK


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Member Reviews

It is possible that it has just been too long since I read The Great Gatsby but appears from the narrator  sharing a name I don't see any connection.
The writing was good but I never engaged with the book.
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‘The Great Gatsby’ is one of my all time great reads, so I found the prospect of reading Nick’s ‘back story’ irresistible, along with the iconic aspect of the cover. The weaving in of key ‘Gatsby’ moments such as the flashing light at the end of the pier and the ghostly silhouette of Gatsby are finely embedded by Farris Smith. And Nick’s childhood in his Mid-West family: comfortable, stable but dull also makes for an engaging read. World War 1 and its horrors, and impact on Nick are powerfully imagined, as is his poignant love affair with Ella.
But the sections in New Orleans, I found clumsy, repetitive and grotesque compared with everything else in the novel. A purely personal judgement, but I didn’t feel they added much to the development of Nick’s character or to his story.
Thank you to #NetGalley and #OldcastleBooks for my pre-release download.
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In his forward the author states that he’s read The Great Gatsby three times and that the first time he read it, as a student, it provoked practically no reaction in him at all. But by the third reading he found that the book was speaking to him and furthermore he began to wonder about Nick Carraway, the man through whose eyes the story is told. Very little is disclosed about Carraway and in fact MFS had only gleaned three facts: he fought in the Great War, he was from the Midwest and he was turning thirty. Wouldn’t it be interesting if somebody were to write his story…

As this prequel to TGG begins Nick is sat in a café in Paris, he's about to return to the front and so to resume a life of tedium and terror. He’s with a woman, someone he’s met whilst on leave – of this we’re to learn much more later. He’s reluctant to depart the city and the girl but determined to do his duty. Once back the trenches we learn of how boredom alternates with fear and almost unbelievable violence. Nick is a loner who disappears into himself and thinks of the girl he left in Paris and how he plans to find her should he manage to escape the nightmare of this war. Later, at a point after the war, Nick finds himself in New Orleans and caught up in a feud that has had terrible consequences. Once again, it’s clear that though he’s amongst people he remains in many ways alone, and now haunted by events of the past. 

Throughout, the story has a dystopian feel to it: grimness and a poverty seem to be ever present, as does violence and a sense of general lawlessness. The latter sections of the book could almost have been penned by James Lee Burke, such is its lyrical flow and astonishing descriptiveness. In fact, the whole thing is extremely well written, as I’ve learned to expect from this writer. It’s also engaging in the way it forced me invest in Nick’s plight - though I knew the end point it was by no means certain just how damaged Nick would be by the time we got there. 

There’s no light and shade here, it’s all shade. This is a dark tale, make no mistake. Consequently I found this a tough read, but definitely a rewarding one. I feel that I now know Nick Carraway and, in fact, plan to re-read Gatsby – a book that passed me by on the first read, too – in order to re-acquaint myself with that story and perhaps re-appraise it. I want to see if I too can gain a new appreciation of what is thought to be one of the great American books of the 20th Century.
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A look into the life of Nick Carraway before he meets Jay Gatsby.  In The Great Gatsby, Nick is the narrator of the novel, but we don't glean much information about him so this novel is a great insight into his past.
Initially set in the trenches and tunnels of WW1 we see his character develop dealing with the frontline horrors of war and his down time in Paris.
Upon returning to the USA, unable to face the inevitable questions at home, Nick travels by train and makes his way to New Orleans.  It is here that we see that he is not the only one dealing with the mental scars left by war and he becomes entangled in the lives of others in a downward spiral fuelled by greed, alcohol and drugs.
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This is Nick's story before he knew Gatsby (as in the Great Gatsby).  It starts in Paris during WW1 with Nick on leave from the front line trenches.  He has met a girl there but his leave ends and he reluctantly returns to war.  The writing is vividly evocative and when Nick volunteers for tunnelling the sense of claustrophobia is  very real.  The story follows Nick back to the USA after the war.  His mental scarring is vivid at times and he decides not to return to his family but to go to New Orleans instead.  Most of the remainder of the book focusses on his time there.  Prohibition is coming and he meets some colourful characters.  Alcohol and drugs figure along with a dark sense of despair at times.

Nick's time in the war and in Paris really grabbed me.  The experiences on the front line in the trenches and tunnels were vivid. During the lulls he reflects on times past and the quality of the writing was clear.  The underlying theme throughout this book is what we would now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  This story is both haunted and haunting particularly in New Orleans.

The writing here is wonderfully vivid.  I've not read the Great Gatsby however I'm not sure that it is necessary to read that book before Nick.  I have really enjoyed other books by this author.  However, for me, this was unremitting bleak at times particularly in New Orleans.  I found Nick very good as a character and perfectly believable.  The other main characters were also very real to me and well crafted.  Ultimately I cannot claim to have enjoyed this book I think.  The writing is wonderful and parts I really enjoyed but parts of it are so bleak.  I do plan to read more from this author and I am sure many fans will enjoy this. I would suggest new readers start elsewhere though.
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Date reviewed/posted: November 21, 2020

When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is once again closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us,  superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today.

I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

Critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this exhilarating imagination of his life before The Great Gatsby

Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world, he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I.

Floundering in the wake of the destruction he witnessed first-hand, Nick delays his return home, hoping to escape the questions he cannot answer about the horrors of war. Instead, he embarks on a transcontinental redemptive journey that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance – doomed from the very beginning – to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence.

An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to transfix even the heartiest of golden age scribes, NICK reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades.

As soon as I saw the cover, I was excited thinking "this MUST have something to do with the Great Gatsby" as the covers are too alike! The book is, unfortunately, just ...okay.  It is ridiculously floral in its descriptions at times and it is tedious and trying at others. It was a middle effort earning a middle rating - it might float your boat. it just did not float mine.

As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube  Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🍸🍸🍸
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A nicely written book about the horrors of war. Marketing is as a 'prequel' to Gatsby seems a bit of stretch though-this book could be written about literally any soldier, and has nothing to do with The Great Gatsby
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I enjoyed this creative examination of the character Nick Carraway and what happened before Fitgerald's novel. The love story was especially compelling and I wish there had been more of that.
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Michael Farris Smith heads into different territory with this breathlessly ambitious imaginative backstory of one of the most famous narrators in American literary history, as he pays homage to the little known observant outsider that is Nick Carraway in F Scott Fitgerald's classic The Great Gatsby. This prequel has the author flesh out Nick, now taking centre stage, vividly constructing how he came to be who he is, taking the reader right up to his arrival in West Egg, to become the friend and neighbour of Jay Gatsby. Nick grew up in Minnesota, unable to face small town life and the future that awaits him if he were to remain. He ends up in Europe and France, in the midst of all the harrowing horrors and trauma of WW1, trench warfare, surrounded by death and destruction, sharply contrasting with life in Paris that he experiences on leave, falling in love with a French woman, Ella, a doomed affair right from the start.

When the war comes to a close, the introverted Nick is no longer the man he used to be, he is haunted and broken, torn asunder by all that he has seen, physically, emotionally and mentally scarred. When he returns to the US, a lost soul, he makes the impulsive decision not to go back home, but head to impoverished, vice ridden, violent New Orleans with its alcohol, prohibition and amorality instead, plagued by nightmares, in search of hope and redemption until he steps into his role as we know it in The Great Gatsby. No novel by this author is ever going to be a feel good read, this treads bleak and dark territory, written with such vibrancy and rich descriptions that are Farris Smith's trademark style.

You feel as if you know and understand Nick with his flashbacks, are right there in the grim realities of war, love, and loss that Nick cannot ever erase, all of which explain his remoteness and distance from others, the outsider status that defines his role in F Scott Fitzgerald's novel. The author's beautifully realised flawed and damaged characterisation of Nick connects perfectly with that of the Nick from the classic novel, capturing how our personal histories make us the people we are in the present. Many thanks to Oldcastle Books for an ARC.
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An interesting concept, I enjoyed the backstory and the depth with which the author takes on the retelling of The Great Gatsby.
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Controversially, I didn't enjoy the Great Gatsby, but I loved this. Subtle, menacing and, often, tragic, it is a vivid portrait of a character western literature knows well.
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Stellar reimagining of Fitzgerald's characters. The writing is excellent and the story is well thought out. I can see why this is getting so much attention ahead of its release!
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One of my all time favourite books is ‘The Great Gatsby’, I have read it countless times and found something new or interpreted something different in every reading so when I began ‘Nick’ I was nervous but then I was astounded. 
Michael Farris Smith conveys Nick’s voice so well it seamlessly flows into Fitzgerald’s world and ties in so many themes elegantly. This novel preempts Fitzgerald’s focus on love, isolation and of course the realities of the ‘American dream’ whilst giving a heart-wrenching glimpse into Nick’s life before he set foot in West Egg. 
Nick Carraway’s back story recounts the horrors he witnessed during World War I, a dramatic romance in Paris and dark immorality in New Orleans. These intense and vivid experiences create a fully realised character who was previously an onlooker of other people’s lives. Smith’s novel is a beautifully crafted stand alone but is a must read for any ‘Gatsby’ fans.
I also have to mention the front cover which hints at the eyes of Dr TJ Eckleburg; as many critics take this to be a symbolic view of the lack of human morality. After reading this novel I now understand so much more about Nick and his role not as a passer of judgement but an eloquent observer who has witnessed so much about humanity across all walks of life. 
An epic prequel.
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Such a great premise for a book. What was Nick Carraway like before he met Gatsby? Here Smith draws on his imagination and knowledge of the period to describe Nick Carraway in his early life, and to show what he imagines happened to him and shaped him. 
Smith does a good job of writing on a similar style to F Scott Fitzgerald, and this adds to the believability of this tale, that this is the same Nick Carraway. Smith makes good use of war sequences to explain the state of mind that Nick Carraway was in at the start of the Greay Gatsby.
This book is well worth the read for any Gatsby fan.
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As a big Gatsby fan I wasn't sure what tp expect. It's a bit risky as an author to put yourself out there against Fitzgerald, but luckily the plot is pre-Gatsby and so is able to stand on it's own a bit. I enjoyed the writing style, overall not bad at all for anyone wondering how Nick got to Long Island. Curious to see what the author does next
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I wasn't really sure what to expect when starting this book, though as a big fan of the original The Great Gatsby I went in with a harsh criteria. I was not disappointed, partly because the novel was so far removed from Fitzgerald's book. Though based on the narrator, Nick, the storyline focuses solely on his life prior to meeting Gatsby. Taking the reader through Nick's time in the military during WW1 , a turbulent love affair in Paris and then a period of self-discovery in New Orleans. 
Farris-Smith has managed to bring a new depth to the character created by Fitzgerald, whilst introducing  interesting characters that add to the shaping of Nick's character and make for a gripping novel.
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Nick, Michael Farris Smith

A mesmerising, gorgeous look at the life of Nick Carraway before he met the enigmatic Jay Gatsby. This is a well written, wonderfully explored homage to one of the most famous novels of all time. A stunning read.
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This is not what I was expecting. I suppose I made the mistake of thinking that I'd be getting more Gatsby. It was bold and brave of the writer to attempt this but it was not my cup of tea. 

The writing was not as strong as I'd hoped and therefore I did not finish the whole book. 

I feel bad for the writer because he has put himself in a position to be compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
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** spoiler alert ** Giving a back story to a famous character is incredibly clever,and brave I think. Especially when you didn't create that character.
It definitely worth it here.
I read Nick in one sitting,as he pulled me through war,his great love,the crazy streets of new Orleans.... I happily read it all.
It was bold and full of larger than life characters.. which I guess was just prep work for where we left him.
I don't love Gatsby,so I can't say how truly this Nick works with the one in that book... But I can say,I think these might have been his biggest adventures.
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Michael Farris Smith's follow-up to The Great Gatsby (due out next year, just in time to escape copyright) is a prequel-cum-sequel that establishes a complex circular relationship with the past.

It draws on and massively extends the original book's theme of lives being drawn back in the past into something almost metaphysical. The past not only intrudes into the present, it is the template by which we understand and operate within it. The result is that we can never return to the past, but are doomed to repeat it in new and interesting ways.

As Nick puts it: "I will try as hard as I can try no matter that I know I am at the mercy of whatever circles us around. We are here now but we will be here again and next time with the child but will it be with different faces and different sounds but the same desperate feelings? The same slipping grip on what we have made?"

Fittingly, "Nick" opens with the protagonist trying to find a lost love in the fog and ends with him first spotting Jay Gatsby. The two books' narratives are thus intertwined in a single story that pushes ever forward while being born back ever into the past.

It's not perfect, though: while the book gets more ambitious in the exploration of its themes in its second half, when we reach New Orleans, it also becomes less focused and perhaps a bit overwrought. It's not a long book, but it could do with being shorter – F. Scott Fitzgerald's tight cutting is sadly not carried across.

Thematically fascinating but narratively baggy, "Nick" is worth your time as long as you hold onto the fact that its repetition is not always to purpose.
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