A critically acclaimed novelist pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this "masterful" look into his life before Gatsby (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls and Chances Are).
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.
Smith (Blackwood) offers an evocative if underwhelming origin story for Great Gatsby narrator Nick Carraway. The reader first finds Nick fighting in the trenches during WWI. Then, on leave in Paris, he promptly falls for a French girl named Ella, who becomes sick and sends Nick away. He returns to the front and volunteers for highly dangerous missions, and upon the war's end returns to Paris only to find Ella gone. Once back stateside, a dejected Nick impulsively takes a train to New Orleans where he's drawn to a whorehouse madame and becomes confessor to her saloon-owner ex-husband and other habitu s of this debauched demimonde before moving on to Long Island. As in Gatsby, Nick is more observer than participant, which makes him problematic as a main character; unlike in Fitzgerald's novel, Nick's function here isn't clear. While the war chapters offer striking imagery, the New Orleans section pushes Nick to the margins of an arbitrary story, and by the time he heads north readers won't have any deeper understanding of him than they do on page one. Smith's effort is a noble one, but it doesn't do enough to deepen the reader's understanding of one of 20th-century American literature's enduring characters.