“If there is one thing the lost are able to recognize it is the others who are just as wounded and wandering.”
In this poignant novel we are given that desperate glimpse into the life of Nick Carraway, a character we all recognise but really know little about. The man who once narrated the story of Jay Gatsby now gets to tell his own through the work of Michael Farris Smith.
We begin with Nick sitting outside a café in Paris on leave from the war. The visual descriptions of the Parisian streets gave a strong first impression to someone who had never previously read Smith’s work. The writing brings life to the scene, diving into detail from the first page and absorbing us into the story. It is here he meets Ella, and his mind wanders to their brief relationship when he returns to the war.
The battle scenes were most striking to me, as Smith’s skill in delivering emotion tied well with his ability to involve the reader in a scene. He also seamlessly wove Nick’s childhood into the chapters, bringing further insight to the mysterious character as he evaluates the journey of his life up to the trenches. His father’s business Nick was expected to take over and the pressure he inflicted. His mother who struggled with spells of depression through the years that would last days. I felt that this was the story readers of The Great Gatsby wanted to hear of Nick.
Smith gave us a lot of time to get to know Nick within the first part of the novel as we followed him back to Paris in his obsession to find Ella once more. When he fails, he heads to New Orleans to evade his duties at home, unable to emotionally face it. The series of characters we meet here envelop Nick into their chaotic lives, almost echoing the drama of The Great Gatsby itself. This is where the story fell short for me, as the jump to other perspectives really downplayed the intention of Nick to have his story told. It felt like once again he was a mere observer in another life taking centre stage.
Overall, it is still a greatly emotive story with detailed characters and scenes that wrench you in. Full of heartbreak, pain and the strength of human spirit, Nick is a well-written retelling of an old character in a completely new light.