By Michael Farris Smith
What it’s about?
This rich and imaginative novel from critically acclaimed author Michael Farris Smith breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery.
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.
NICK is an inspired concept realised with delicate, rhythmic prose, profound characterisation and deep emotion. 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.
What I think:
I’ve read The Great Gatsby countless times but never once has it occurred to me to think much about how Nick Carraway ended up living next door to Jay Gatsby. That is exactly what Michael Farris Smith imagines in Nick.
Using the snippets of information Nick gives away about his own life, the narrative begins with Nick fighting in the trenches. The details of life into he the WW1 battlefront are detailed and sometime harrowing. The sense of danger pervades Nick’s narrative and he is emotionally scarred by what he sees.
While on leave he has an intense affair with French woman, Ella. The scenes between Nick and Ella are beautiful and poignant ant. But again graphic and sad.
Returning to the US, Nick is headed for the Midwest but instead heads to New Orleams where he tries to remind himself. Nick suffering from both the physical and psychological effects of war and his grief for his doomed romance.
The New Orleans he explores is dark. Prostitution and bootleggers are rife and Nick fonds himself caught up in a feud that has has devastating consequences.
This vision of Nick before Gatsby is relentlessly dark and often depressing. While beautifully written and atmospheric, I can’t reconcile this Nick with the Nick that appreciated Gatsby for his hope and dreams and vision of the green light.
This works as a novel in it’s own right without the loose Gatsby connection. Nick is a complex character – lost and heartbroken, the reader will be fully immersed in his journey.
About the author:
No Exit Press also publish Michael Farris
Smith’s novels The Fighter, Desperation Roadand most recently Blackwood. Farris Smith has been a finalist for the Gold Dagger Award in the UK, and the Grand Prix des Lectrices in France, and his essays have appeared in publications including The New York Times.
He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife and daughters.
Thank you No Exit Press for my gifted copy of the book and to Anne from Random Things Blog Tours.