Author: Michael Farris Smith
Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s periphery, he was at the center 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 firsthand, 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 flavor 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 but few have pondered deeply. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to paralyze even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nick reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades.
I was lucky enough to win this novel in a Goodreads giveaway and I’m very thankful to the publisher for sending me a copy. This book is outside my usual contemporary romance genre, but it’s a style that I’ve enjoyed before as The Great Gatsby was one of the required reading books I was assigned in school that I actually would’ve read on my own. It’s great to see Nick Carraway step out of Gatsby’s shadow and be featured in a tale of his own. This is a prequel story to Nick’s life before Gastby’s story takes place and the author did a great job of expanding the few facts we know about Nick to expand it into a whole tale of his past.
We start in WWI times where Nick is in Paris on temporary leave from the front before he must return. While on leave, he’s met a French woman named Ella, who he’s reluctant to leave, however, his sense of duty takes over and he ends up returning to the front. A bulk of the story takes place in battle as Nick navigates surviving while reminiscing of his time with Ella. He also thinks back to his childhood and growing up in Minnesota. These flashbacks help us gain a better understanding of this familiar character while we also live in his struggle with being among the terrors of war. After Nik survives the war, he finds himself in New Orleans to begin the next chapter of his journey that eventually leads to West Egg. Although surrounded by others, Nick still feels alone and we continue to better understand the observer character he becomes.
The book is well-written and is very descriptive as you feel you are there along with Nick as he travels through life during and after his time in the war. The times in battle are incredibly realistic and the writing paints a picture that give tons of detail of what Nick is experiencing in the front. It’s thought provoking and heart-wrenching at times as the reader is transported to seem as if they are right there with Nick. It’s a dark tale of a character that’s very well-known through his introduction in The Great Gastby. After reading this novel, I now have to re-read Gastby just to see how it will possibly reshape my understanding of the story. As this is a prequel story, you know the ending before you even read the first page, but it’s still an enthralling tale.
Although the descriptions are fantastic, there are times where the story doesn’t flow cohesively. As some of the story takes place in flashbacks, there are points in time where it can make the story feel choppy. There are points as we travel along with Nick where we experience one thing and then jump to another as we try to witness his journey. Although there are times where some of the writing feels a little disconnected, the story is still enjoyable and your reading experience isn’t hindered. As every reader is different, the style may work and they might not feel the same so I would suggest reading it for yourself to form your own opinions. Also, the story is worth reading if you have any interest in learning more about Nick before his interactions with Gastby in West Egg. Overall, this novel was a great read to help me learn about the more mysterious Nick. The story gave excellent insight into the realities of war, loss, and love all through the eyes of this character. Nick grew up wanting to escape his smaller town childhood and it shows how he eventually got there. This novel served as a great connection to Nick’s time in Gastby’s world. The author’s work did an excellent job of transporting the reader to Nick’s past and gave us a deeper understanding of how he became the observer that everyone has become familiar with. This is an excellent novel for anyone who wants to learn more about Nick Carraway.