by Michael Farris Smith
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 25 Feb 2021 | Archive Date 25 Feb 2021
Oldcastle Books, No Exit Press
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.
'Stylish, evocative, haunting and wholly original' - Chris Whitaker, author of We Begin at the End
'Anybody who believes that the war is over when the enemy surrenders and the troops come home needs to read Michael Farris Smith's masterful new novel NICK. Its stark, unvarnished truth will haunt you' - Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Empire Falls
'A dark and often gripping story that imagines the narrator of The Great Gatsby in the years before that book began...The new Nick is a man fully realized, with a mind tormented by the war and by a first love that waned too fast to a fingernail moon of bitter memory. A compelling character study and a thoroughly unconventional prequel' - Kirkus Reviews
'The title figure of Nick offers a soul for the ages, one that finally and deftly slips into the canon' - Jeffrey Lent, NYT bestselling author of In the Fall
'Nick is, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, an atmospheric masterpiece of imagination and prose' - Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis
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Average rating from 70 members
Michael Farris Smith writes with a mesmerising fluidity that soaked me into the story from the get-go. There is a rawness and depth to this story, so simply articulated and effortless, and yet I've never seen anything like this! I was about to start reading The Great Gatsby right as I heard about this prequel and I decided to wait. I'm so very glad I did! Thank you Little, Brown for the ARC!
I really enjoyed this book a lot. The characters were clever and engaging, and getting to spend time with them was a treat. I liked the writing too - it was descriptive without ever veering into flowery territory, and I would certainly be interested in reading more work by this author. The cover is great too!
The ARC of this book was kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. #NickNovel #NetGalley. This book was daring, to say the least. Deciding to write a book that acts as a prequel to one of the most beloved American Classics was a bold move and thankfully it paid off here. I found myself immediately enthralled by the writing and poetic nature of the storytelling within this novel. Nick, a character often overlooked within The Great Gatsby (aside from his role as the unreliable narrator), is given a purpose here. We learn about him before he's known as Gatsby's friend and neighbour. It was a refreshing take to read about his life during the war and shortly after, something that I felt was explored with great detail. The descriptions of the trenches and the battles of the war were harrowing and a stark contrast against the luxury of Paris (and what is later to become Nick's life in New York). Although I found a few of the side characters to fall a bit flat, perhaps due to lack of development, the majority of them were interesting and added a bonus to the unfolding narrative. I appreciate the added information this gave me surrounding Nick and when I reread The Great Gatsby again I know this prequel will be stuck in the back of my mind, giving more depth to a character that's held my attention for years.
Dark and compelling! I couldn't put this down. It was so well written with richly drawn and tragic characters, I could see it and smell it all so clearly. I haven't read the Great Gatsby but I feel I need to now, just to see how this links. The only very minor criticism would be to change the title as the story is not just from Nick's POV. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Nick, by Michael Farris Smith, is the story of Nick Carraway, the narrator of F.Scott Fitzgerald's classic ,"The Great Gatsby". At the time of reading "Nick" I hadn't read "The Great Gatsby" so had no idea what to expect, Farris Smith is one of my favourite authors however so I knew I was in safe hands. Nick Carraway is bored with small town America and dreading living a "scripted" life of working in then owning the family store. He joins the Army when America joins WW1 and finds himself risking his life tunnelling under enemy lines,a job with a very short life expectancy. Nick appears to have inherited his mother's depression and his war experiences leave also him with what would be recognised now as PTSD ,but serve to further isolate him from society. After a doomed love affair Nick returns to America after the war but rather than going home goes to New Orleans a wreck of man assuring his family that he's been side-tracked from coming home and is having a great time. New Orleans is a hive of vice,depravity and poverty and Nick finds himself in the company of other equally flawed people. This is a great,if very dark, book that took me a couple of chapters to get into but gripped me when I did. There's not much sunshine in this book, life has kicked most of the characters in the teeth and most of the main characters are damaged people, not least Nick. One result of reading this book was that on finishing it I immediately read the Kindle version of "The Great Gatsby", a free download at the time of reviewing "Nick". In his introduction Farris Smith tells of his relationship with that book and why Nick Carroway held so much fascination for him as a character. I found Farris Smith's Nick a lot more introspective and affected by his experiences, F.Scott Fitzgerald's original didn't appear to have any demons or at least the signs of psychological damage shown by the later version don't appear. Back to the Michael Farris Smith book,it's a great read,I've yet to read one of his books that hasn't been, and while it's bleak and certainly not a barrel of laughs it's a great piece of work. Thanks to Michael Farris Smith, Oldcastle Books and Netgalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.
A long-awaited follow up to The Great Gatsby... from Nick's point of view?! I'm in. When I first read the original, Nick was a character that I grew to love/hate (I studied it for 3 years, so I'm pretty sure I know it better than any other book that I've read lol), so I was so excited to learn more about the character. First off: Smith gets Nick's voice so right. This feels like a true prequel to The Great Gatsby and he's truly honoured Fitzgerald's legacy in doing so. His descriptions of Nick's experiences in the trenches during the First World War are horrific, evocative and believable. You'll instantly be transported to 20th century France in this book. Equally, when Nick returns to the US, his descriptions are just as vivid. Smith's use of flashbacks is an incredibly clever way of adding depth to a character we already know so little about. He brings Nick to life, from apathetic narrator to a realistic man, torn by the horrors of what he has seen. Smith doesn't focus too heavily on The Great Gatsby in this novel either. It is truly a unique tribute to the Classic original, peppered with Easter eggs that add to the experience of reading even more. If you're a fan of Gatsby, you have to read this book. Also - shoutout to the cover designer for the reference to the Doctor T.J. Eckleburg billboard in the original. My symbolism-loving heart appreciated that!
** 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
New Year New Blog Day Five – Nick by Michael Farris Smith Review “Your world is a place unto its own… it is a place of its own truth and its own consequences and it is invisible to all.” Nick by Michael Farris Smith is a masterpiece in its own right. I love The Great Gatsby; it’s my favourite classics and one of my favourite books. I am always wary of retellings of classics in case they do not portray the character right or get the true essence of the story. However, I have always wondered what Nick Carraway did before arriving in West Egg as it is not said much in the books which is what led me to this one. This book made me love Nick’s unreliable character even more and this story made me love the Great Gatsby more if that was at all possible. It moved me and kept me wanting more the entire way through this novel. This follows Nick throughout his life starting within the war and his fight in the trenches whilst also showing the horror of war and PTSD. Whilst on a short leave he travels to Paris and meets Ella, an interesting French woman who shows Nick how to love. Whilst flashing back and forward between his time in the trenches and his time with Ella it shows how Nick copes being alone. It goes into his loneliness at home as a child, caring for his mother during her dark periods and his time with Ella. He spends time traveling the world in order to not return to his overbearing family ending up in New Orleans. Here he meets two ex-married people who are having trouble with their own lives after the war. “And he raised his arms and reached out for the dawn as if to warm his hands on the rising sun”. Smith brought me straight back to The Great Gatsby with his use of vivid descriptions of the war as well as the places Nick traveled too during his time. His unreliable narration and long, expressive sentences are similar to that of Fitzgerald himself. Through vivid, haunting nightmares of Ella and the bloody, torturous war it felt like I was living this life alongside Nick; feeling his pain and longing. It perfectly displayed how characters do have lives before we join them on their story and how it shapes them into the characters we see. This book details the love, loss, friendship and heartbreak that outlines a person’s life. I could not put it down and I am looking forward to reading more by Michael Farris Smith in the future. Thank you to Little Brown and Company and Net Galley for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!
Isolation and bewilderment, the bad days and nights Nick faced, his crossing paths with a few main characters like Collette and Judah, from Paris to Frenchtown and eventually Minnesota home again, captured with skill in this narrative. That tale of war surviving and getting back and facing what was left behind, the love, the lost love, the new friendships, and the new friend with whom he has empathy with, the eyes meet and there is a common understanding of pain and the war being there and seen many terrible things. Many moments of emotion, thoughts and rumination, vividly and empathically immersing the reader in the world of Nick with the authors careful good crafting with words and sentences that demand re-reading. This world before he came to meet the man Gatsby, when he went to war, backrooms of brothels, and walking the streets following Paris girls he replaced for the one he lost. These aspects of the tale may have the reader want to open the crack of a copy of The Great Gatsby for a re-read, as I am one of many including the author of this book who loves the tale peened by Fitzgerald. That arrival next to Gatsby is signalled with this passage near finality of the tale, “The cottage was situated in a quiet and upscale community on a strip of island that stretched east from New York City. It was flanked by two mansions and Nick had the feeling on first sight of the cottage that he was moving into the servant quarters.” There is another few sentences right near the end where a silhouette comes into view that can only be one person, it is something simple but great to read of and arise to in its ending of this chapter of Nick’s life, bravo Michael Farris Smith you stole my heart for a time.
This novel was an absolute joy to read. The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite novels and this imagining of Nick Carraway's life before he met Jay Gatsby is pitch perfect. We first meet Nick, as a soldier, in Paris during the First World War. He is with a woman who asks him not to return to the front. Nick feels honour bound to do his duty and we follow him through the terror and brutality of life in the trenches. During his next period of leave he see the woman, we now know as Ella, once more. He is wracked by guilt about her situation. She pushes him away and he returns to the war and volunteers for the very dangerous job of working in the tunnels under the battlefields. After the war, Nick finds himself in New Orleans and he becomes embroiled in the pre-prohibition underworld of saloons, prostitutes, gambling and criminals. He gets caught up in a feud which has tragic consequences. The rich narrative in this book truly captures Nick's experiences during the war and in bawdy New Orleans. You hear the guns and explosions, smell the smoke and feel the dirt and mud. You hear the loudness brassiness of New Orleans, see the violence and sense the lawlessness. It is vivid and immersing. The characters are beautifully brought to life. Nick is damaged by the war and his experience with Ella; he is a loner and an observer. In New Orleans he meets Judah, another survivor of the war and they recognise the brokenness within each other. Colette, Judah's wife has also suffered as a result of the conflict with her life taking a very different turn to the one she might have expected. The novel ends with Nick in New Haven glimpsing a lone figure standing at the end of a pier and so The Great Gatsby begins. This was a compelling and haunting character study set against tumultuous and uncertain times. I think FSF would approve, Many thanks to NetGalley and Oldcastle Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
'The Great Gatsby' is a masterpiece and one of my favourite books, the opulence of the Jazz Age shining through in Fitzgerald's beautifully crafted prose and enchanting characters. I am pleased to say that with 'Nick', Michael Farris Smith has entered a worthy prequel into the Gatsby canon, living up to the legacy of its source material. Nick Caraway was always a mysterious character to me. We get hints about his past experiences but he always seems to be on the outside, an observer rather than an active participant. In the first half of 'Nick', we get insight into Nick's defining past moments serving in WWI. Not only do we see the trauma of the battlefield but we realise Nick has been shaped by a Daisy-esque lost love of his own. It is in this phase of the novel he seems to have the most agency, trying to get a grip of his own fate in the horrific trenches and tunnels of WWI France. (This peril is undermined slightly about the fact that Nick has to survive for the sequel!) The second section of the novel sees Nick in New Orleans, drifting and trying to establish his purpose in life, haunted by his past trauma in war. It is here Farris Smith introduces Collette and Judah who are the most interesting of the new characters in the novel. They do not reach the heights of the fascination caused by the enigmatic Gatsby but their story is one of high drama and heartache. We see Nick start to become an observer, following their story, and becoming more of the Nick we recognise from Fitzgerald's original work. Overall, the writing is beautiful, the story is thrilling and the characters are well realised. I also thought the ending was absolutely spot on and a fitting homage. Farris Smith has written something really special here and I am glad I gave it a chance. 5 dazzling stars. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher who provided an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you to Netgalley, Michael Farris Smith and Oldcastle for this ARC in return for my honest review. Clevery written, this book drew me in word by word. It's an imagining of Nick pre-Gatsby and serves as a very suitable companion novel. Bound to become a modern day masterpiece. Heavy with atmosphere, it's simply stunning.
Anyone who's read The Great Gatsby, or even just seen a film adaptation, will be familiar with Nick Carraway - Daisy Buchanan's second cousin who accidentally rents a house across the bay from her, and right next to Gatsby's huge mansion - but beyond his role as narrator he doesn't really exist. For Fitzgerald, Nick seems little more than a convenient plot device, sitting watching a love triangle tragedy unfold around him, privy to the desires and actions of all sides, fully committed to none. Now Michael Farris Smith has brought Nick into the limelight. From his Mid-West childhood, where his life stretched planned and orderly in front of him, through the chaos of World War 1 trenches, and a doomed love affair in Paris, to the violent saloons of New Orleans, Nick makes his winding way to a small house in West Egg on Long Island, and the green light shining across the Bay. I'm normally a bit wary of 'spin off' books, which give characters lives way beyond the ones dreamed of by the original authors, but I read an online article by Michael Farris Smith about the inspiration behind Nick, and it somehow appealed. If you saw The Great Gatsby as a romantic tale of unrequited love, played out against a backdrop of fabulous parties, huge mansions, and flash cars, then this probably isn't for you. It's far grittier and more violent - like Hemingway rather than Fitzgerald - but I very much enjoyed it. It's a story that could well have stood on its own - naive young man traumatized by war, and unable to fit back into the world he left behind - but being the story of Nick Carraway gives it an extra twist. We know where he's going to end up; just not how. The Great Gatsby is now out of copyright so there are bound to be an endless number of spin-offs. Get in early and read this one.
2021 marks the 125th anniversary of F.Scott Fitzgerald and to celebrate his lifetime and work, Michael Farris Smith has given voice to one of the most famous unreliable narrators of all time…Nick Carraway. Giving him his own story, NICK tells the tale of the man before Gatsby, breathing life into a character that is famous for being on the side lines. 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 embarks on a 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. As you all know, I’m a huge lover of classics and The Great Gatsby has to be one of my favourite books because in just over 200 pages, the most incredible story takes place. In NICK, the story is just as exciting and was the perfect escapism I needed. Very different from The Great Gatsby, NICK is a far more focused on the violence and lawlessness of pre-prohibition America, and provides a stunning depiction of life post-WW1. With compelling characters and a sense of uneasiness, this book beautifully and cyclically provides a real understanding of the loss and guilt caused by war. By the end, I was ready to read The Great Gatsby for the one millionth time! Thank you to No Exit Press for approving my advanced copy on NetGalley.
From the moment details of this prequel were released, I was genuinely very excited and eager to read it. I studied The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for A-Level English and I always felt that Nick played an important role in terms of being the narrator, but that was all. Of course, the name of the book is after the main character Gatsby, so he wouldn’t be the focus. However, I definitely feel that there were opportunities for Nick and his own story to have been explored, but weren’t. He seemed to play an integral part yet also, as an individual character, didn’t; only serving to advance Gatsby’s story. This wasn’t something that Fitzgerald felt was important, but as this book shows, Smith thought otherwise. Instead, Nick is given a proper backstory which actually explains some of his behaviours in The Great Gatsby. He is finally given a real story, which I believe he deserved. Opening the novel in Paris, Nick recalls his whirlwind romance with Ella. He thinks about her whilst he fights in the brutal World War l (WWl) battle, working in the tunnels, his life in constant danger. When the war is over, he gets on a train, believing he will be returning home to his family. However, when he needs to get onto the final train and complete his journey, he cannot do it. He doesn’t want to answer the questions about the war he knows they will have for him and confront this. What he does instead is embarks on a journey to New Orleans, full of violence, alcohol, and many dangers as he tries to navigate his trauma. The reader will go on a journey with Nick through war, love, heartbreak, trauma, friendship, and pain. It will not be smooth, but the hurdles along the way will eventually lead readers to somewhere very familiar… What I loved about this novel is how it gave Nick the story I believe he was owed, in a captivating yet complex way. The complexity works effectively to emphasise how trauma and loss can have profound impacts. Through this, Nick gets the dimensions he deserves, no longer the narrator but instead the main character of the story, which is narrated in third person. I was deeply moved by Nick’s story, full of regret, loss, memory, trauma, achieved by Smith’s eloquent and gripping prose. Another brilliant feature was the plot-driven nature of the novel that allowed it to operate at a fast-pace yet with moments for reflection. The descriptions also conjured vivid images that complemented the plot. I felt truly immersed in the settings being portrayed which were both frightening and enthralling, especially during the WWl scenes, and New Orleans. I will end this review by noting how fans of The Great Gatsby should not be scared to read this novel, especially if they felt that character development was missing for Nick and that they want to know more, like I did. Yet I would also add that this book does not require any knowledge of The Great Gatsby, and in fact would just be as good without having ever read it, or having no idea of what it was about. Now that I’ve read NICK, I would love for there to also be prequels focusing on the other characters in the novel, even Gatsby himself who is given a backstory, but not in great detail. I think this will definitely be a possibility in the future! Follow Nick on his story of navigating danger, trauma, and loss, as he steers through the world around him. You won’t regret it.
Reading Michael Farris Smith introduction to how he came to write NICK, you immediately feel his connection to Nick as a person and his desire to tell his story and this feeling continues throughout the story. There are no hints of how the story leads to the Nick we meet in The Great Gatsby until the very end, so NICK stands on its own merit as the compelling story of a young man who sets out to escape what he feels is his inevitable future in his family business in a small mid western town. Having had his childhood split between happiness and dealing with his mother depression he seems detached from others, and his experiences in the trenches and Paris emphasise that. The closest relationships he forms are with people who he feels are like him, scarred by their own experiences and apart from society. This is not an easy read due to the period and subjects the story covers, but it is definitely worth reading. I was given a copy of NICK by NetGalley and the publishers in return for an unbiased review.
I participated in the book trailer social media Blitz for Nick by Michael Farris Smith in late 2020 and eagerly accepted an eARC of the book shortly thereafter. When the publisher once again contacted me ahead of publication wondering if I would like to participate in a review tour for the book, well of course I said yes! Thank you very much for the opportunity, No Exit Press. None of this has influenced by review. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest. Everyone remembers Nick Carraway, the unreliable and oh-so-passive narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, but what did his first 30 years of life look like before he found himself renting next door to the mysterious wealthy party host? Michael Farris Smith set out to find out and share the answer with us. Now that copyright has lapsed on Gatsby I expect we'll get a lot more retellings and spinoff stories, but this will be remembered as the first prequel story, and a strong one at that! NICK gives us glimpses into plenty of different events and time periods throughout Nick's life, from flashbacks to childhood, to wartime horrors and retreats in Europe, to reluctant wandering upon his return to the USA. The tone and emotions ride a rollercoaster up and down in line with the joys and horrors on Nick's life and never quite let the reader settle into one extreme or the other for too long. This is absolutely one excellent possible backstory that formed the broken shell we meet in Fitzgerald's book. The difference between a 4 and a 5 on this book, or the reason it didn't absolutely blow me away, aren't really the book or author's fault. They're my fault. It's about my expectations and how I imagined Nick's earlier life (and later life.) I'm absolutely in camp queer when it comes to speculating on was Nick attracted to Gatsby's lifestyle or was Nick attracted to Gatsby, and this prequel didn't give any strong indications that Smith thinks that's what was going on. I also wasn't at all prepared for interludes into memories from childhood that chop up the narrative. I would have preferred to either start with childhood or skip it entirely and start with teen or adult Nick preparing to go to war. This really is a great book, and I would recommend it broadly to fans of historical fiction, but I would caution lovers of The Great Gatsby in particular that this book may or may not live up to your expectations. Gatsby has been such a pillar in literature, so well studied and discussed over the last century, that I think at this point anyone who cares to know Nick's story has already drafted their own backstory for him in some level of detail, and this may not reflect those individual visions. Go into this read with the expectations you set for a new, unrelated work or for fan fiction, whichever works best for you, and remember that while this is inspired by Fitzgerald's Nick Carraway, nobody can truly know at this point what Fitzgerald had in mind. This is one possibility and it's very well written.
A very interesting take on a classic tale, I only recently read The Great Gatsby so this book seemed very up my street recently. Beautifully written which allowed me to immerse myself into the story very well. In my opinion this book does justice to Gatsby, and doesn't stray too of course which is brilliant. The imagination which has been undertaken to write this story is great and I enjoyed thinking about different aspects. It definitely helped me connect further with characters.
A gripping back-story of the narrator of "The Great Gatsby" - very well written and in some respects a more interesting (and certainly longer) read than the Scott Fitzgerald original
My thanks to Oldcastle Books No Exit Press for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘NICK’ by Michael Farris Smith in exchange for an honest review. This is a prequel to ‘The Great Gatsby’ that explores Nick Carraway’s life before he moved to West Egg and entered Gatsby’s sparkling world. It follows Nick as he serves in the Great War, first in the trenches and then in the tunnels as a Listener. Traumatised by his experiences, he delays his return home. He first travels to Paris, where he is swept up in a whirlwind romance, and then on to New Orleans. In his Foreword Farris Smith shares his experiences of reading ‘Gatsby’ over the years and how his perception of the novel changed as he matured. He was particularly inspired by this remark by Nick in the original: ‘I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous menacing road of a new decade.’. So from the very few details provided about Nick’s background, Michael Farris Smith, himself an expatriate for a time, decided to write Nick’s backstory. He completed ‘NICK’ in 2015, though due to copyright restrictions it was unable to be published until January 2021, when ‘The Great Gatsby’ entered the public domain in the United States. Given this, ‘NICK’ is bound to be the first in a number of novels seeking to reimagine ‘The Great Gatsby’. I thought that it was a good character study that expanded on Fitzgerald’s novel while respecting the original text. Although I am not familiar with Michael Farris Smith, he is clearly an established American author. I felt that he did well in portraying the period settings in France and New Orleans as well as powerfully conveying the stark horrors of trench warfare. The cover of ‘NICK’ is very striking and echoes the iconic cover of the first edition of ‘The Great Gatsby’ by Francis Cugat titled ‘Celestial Eyes’. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
It’s been many years since I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald but I do remember it had a profound impact on me at the time. So it was with some trepidation that I began reading Nick, a prequel to Gatsby that brings narrator Nick Carraway to the forefront of the story, giving him a background and depth of character that takes him from the impact of his mother’s depression growing up in a small town in the Mid West of America to the horror and bloodshed of the trenches in France during World War 1. But I needn’t have worried as Michael Farris Smith does the character justice, bringing him vividly to life as he tells the story of Nick’s life leading up to his first meeting with Jay Gatsby at the beginning of the famous novel. The story begins as Nick is saying goodbye to Ella, a French woman he has been having a passionate affair with, as he leaves Paris to go back to the trenches of World War 1. This is the start of a journey that will see him lose and then search for his wartime first love, experience the horror and trauma of the battlefield, coming back to take in the heady excitement of New Orleans as this rich and imaginative story of self discovery takes us forward to the very beginning of The Great Gatsby where Nick Carraway sees Jay Gatsby for the very first time, his experiences in this novel shaping everything that is to come in his sympathetic relationship with Gatsby. It is obvious that Michael Farris Smith has a great deal of affection for the source material and this comes through with every word. He does the character of Nick Carraway justice as he turns what was a periphery role in the novel into a full rounded and believable character that you can’t help but care about. His writing is divine and reads very much as you would expect it to, leading very nicely into the beginning of The Great Gatsby so the most natural thing in the world is for you to want to pick up the original novel and continue reading, feeling a better understanding of the character than you ever did before. Nick was a very pleasant surprise, beautifully written and with an authenticity to it that makes it utterly believable as a prequel to the original story. A fascinating novel that I thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend.