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LoveReading Expert Review of NICK

From devastation and death in WWI France, to devastation and debauchery in Frenchtown, New Orleans, this is a dazzling character study of Nick Carraway before The Great Gatsby.

Who was Nick Carraway before he stepped into the world of The Great Gatsby? Michael Farris Smith sets out to explore these questions in Nick, a darkly absorbing, brilliantly accomplished literary undertaking provoked by the author’s complex relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.

With themes of isolation and dislocated identity at its heart, this masterful novel opens in Paris when Nick leaves his lover to return to the horrors of war, ever conscious of death. Imagining his own demise, he wonders, “Who would be there to mourn?... Did anyone truly love him and did he love anyone?” Nick is also constantly consumed by an impulse to escape, juxtaposed with wondering what it is “know your place in the world”. Unable to find his lover when the war is over, and unable to bring himself to return to the family home, he transports himself to Frenchtown, New Orleans, with its drinking dens, whorehouses and vicious vendettas. The world over seems to be filled with folk floundering, people desperate to escape or obliterate their tattered lives, and time and time again Nick’s life entwines with fellow broken, lost souls. This curious magnetism is pertinently expressed by sick bartender Judah when he says, “if there’s one thing the lost are able to recognise it is the others who are just as wounded and wandering.”

Ending on a radiant dawn epiphany scene, with Nick on the verge of moving East, this left me longing to re-visit The Great Gatsby, and keen to read the rest of Farris Smith’s novels.

Joanne Owen

NICK Synopsis

'NICK is an exemplary novel. Smith delivers a moving, full-bodied depiction of a man who has been knocked loose from his moorings and is trying to claw back into his own life' - New York Times 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. 'NICK is so pitch-perfect, so rich in character and action, so remarkable a combination of elegance and passion, so striking in felt originality that I am almost tempted to say - book gods forgive me - that The Great Gatsby will forever feel like NICK's splendid but somewhat paler sequel' - Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain '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 'Smith is emerging as one of the great chroniclers of America's dispossessed. A haunting and utterly compelling read' - Mail on Sunday on Blackwood 'Though Farris Smith has five novels under his belt, he is little known in Britain. That ought to change: let some Mississippian mayhem, murder and misery into your lives' - The Times on Blackwood

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780857304537
Publication date: 24th September 2021
Author: Michael Farris Smith
Publisher: No Exit Press an imprint of Oldcastle Books Ltd
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Collections: 2021 Preview - Exciting New Books on the Horizon, Around the World in 80+ Historical Novels., 50+ Coming-of-age Masterworks,
Primary Genre Literary Fiction
Other Genres:
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Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780857304537
Publication date: 24/09/2021
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780857304544
Publication date: 25/02/2021
Format: Hardback

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About Michael Farris Smith

Michael Farris Smith is the award-winning author of Rivers and The Hands of Strangers. Rivers was named in numerous Best Books of the Year lists, and garnered the 2014 Mississippi Author Award for Fiction. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared in The New York Times, Catfish Alley, Writer’s Bone, and more. He lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters.   Author photo © Chris Jenkins

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