About the Book
Author: Michael Farris Smith
Publication: No Exit Press (25th February, 2021)
Summary (taken from the back cover): 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 to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence.
What I Think
Without a doubt, because of my love of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I wanted to read Nick (an imagining of the narrator's life before he moved to the world of Tom & Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in Long Island), but because of that same love, I was wary; would I be able to enjoy it? Would I hate it? Would it ruin The Great Gatsby for me? Please read on for my full review, but in a nutshell: I loved it.
"A heavy morning fog draped across Paris and there was the corner café. The wicker chairs and the flowers on each table and the small man with the small eyes who sang while he worked. The chairs next to the window where Nick sat each morning and drank espresso and watched the hours of his leave tick away and on the days when the sun filtered through the trees and fell upon the cathedral across the street it seemed to him that there could be no killing."
From the opening lines above to the closing sentence, Michael Farris Smith's prose is simple, but elegant. Over and over again, as we are taken from the streets of Paris to the depths of World War I trenches to brothels in New Orleans, he is able to create dense vivid images.
Nick reads as a contemporary novel, yet is very firmly historical fiction, starting around 100 years ago at the end of World War I. Novelists, I feel, have a great responsibility in depicting, as accurately as possible, events of the past in order to be true to those involved and for us, as readers, to learn. While reading I felt completely immersed in Nick's world, not only in the physical events and places, but also in how he, and those around him, felt restricted and limited by their circumstances.
I found Nick to be a highly relatable character, born into a life-mapped-out that he was never sure he wanted. It is not until he has travelled to the other side of the world that he realises there is an "eternal loneliness that resides in us all" which allows him to feel "that he wasn't alone."
Once in a blue moon there is a sequel or prequel that does the original justice. Nick by Michael Farris Smith is definitely one of those. A real gem to be read and treasured.
About the Author
Michael Farris Smith is the author of Nick, Blackwood, The Figher, Desperation Road, Rivers, and The Hands of Strangers. His novels have appeared on Best of the Year lists with Esquire, NPR, Southern Living, Book Riot, and numerous others, and have been named Indie Next List, Barnes & Noble Discover, and Amazon Best of the Month selections. He has been a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, the Gold Dagger Award in the UK, and the Grand Prix des Lectrices in France. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife and daughters.