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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2021 Michael Farris Smith (P)2021 Hachette Audio

What listeners say about Nick

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Misrepresentation

No spoilers. I normally don’t write reviews but I feel like this needs to be said. The reader was good. The story was fine. But it was not a story of Nick Carraway. I feel like the author had a story that he thought was decent but could not sell, so he threw Nick‘s name on it and a couple of Gatsby quotes, and added a last chapter to tie this previously existing story to Gatsby. What an easy way to make a few bucks, hitchhiking on the Gatsby name. If you want to hear about a WW1 soldier, the “lost generation” as Gertrude Stein called them, and of the events of his life immediately after the war, then this story is OK. But if you buy this book because you want insight into the character of Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby you will be disappointed. Most of what we know about Nick Carraway’s background is replaced with an entirely different person. The Nick in the great Gatsby is a bit uptight. A Harvard man who would never introduce himself ot someone without someone else’s introduction, or at least and mutual acquaintance. The neck in the story is nowhere near that type of character.

2 people found this helpful

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A story of Nick (but maybe not the one you want)

The Great Gatsby belongs to our culture, and it has for decades. Between those who read it for pleasure and those who read it for a Junior English credit and those who merely take it in through its virtual ubiquity in American popular culture, we are all at least conversant in Gatsby. Now, because of the expiration of the original copyright, the text of Fitzgerald’s classic belongs to the people as well. So we should prepare for a flood of all things Gatsby. Thankfully, the first project to result from the newly freed tale is a prequel introducing us to the pre-Gatsby life of Fitzgerald’s famously unreliable narrator. And if the premise is not intriguing enough, this new novel is penned by one of the best authors with whom far too many readers are unfamiliar, Michael Farris Smith.


Farris Smith is known for his tales from the American South, so I was incredibly interested in how he would move to a world beyond the South. Thankfully, he brings us to the South relatively quickly, but even more thankfully, his writing about a world beyond marshes, bayous, and kudzu entrenched landscapes is as engaging as his Southern tales.


Nick is a prequel in a number of ways. First, it is obviously about Nick before he met Jay Gatz and before he entered the bond market. But Gatsby is about more than Gatsby, it is about the world of the Roaring 20s, and Nick serves as a prequel to that as well. Before the decadence of the 20s was the desperation of WW1, and Farris Smith is superb at making the reader viscerally experience the desperation of his characters. This volume is no different. When I have read stories set in the WWI era, I have thought of them in black and white. The stories have always seemed distant, and that distance has provided a bit of relief as a reader. But Farris Smith presents the story, the events, the characters in a way that it is in “living color,” removing much of the distance and thus much of the safety. Farris Smith’s presentation of Nick’s time in Europe is thoroughly unsettling. He humanizes Nick and the men and women around him in a way that is best described as heartbreaking. The section focused on Nick’s time in Europe, with Parisian flashbacks interspersed in gritty war scenes, would translate beautifully to the screen, as well as radio theatre.


But it is when the novel shifts when Nick returns stateside that this tale takes off. Whereas the first section of the novel had a war novel feel, the later sections felt like a classic noir novel. The depravity of pre-prohibition New Orleans, the grit of certain scenes, and the whodunnit mystery set in bars, brothels, and back alleys had me sensing the presence of Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and others.


Farris Smith makes an interesting choice that I think was quite wise. Unlike Gatsby, Nick utilizes a third-person omniscient narrator. That choice opens up some story areas that would not be available otherwise, but it also alleviates Farris Smith of the burden on Fitzgerald’s prose. If he had chosen to utilize Nick as a narrator, the comparisons to Fitzgerald would be warranted, but since he writes his tale about Nick rather than through him, Farris Smith is able to write with his own style, a style that is super fun to read. Also, as opposed to letting Nick tell his own story, and have the reader question the validity of his story because of how Fitzgerald originally presented Nick, Farris Smith’s presentation makes the story feel genuine. This allows for a superb novel, but it also allows for a fresh reading of Gatsby.


But, we are not bound by Nick. It is misleading to call this fan fiction, but that is what it is to a degree. In as such, we should recognize that this is not the Nick story; it is a Nick story. And it is a very good one. Farris Smith gives us plenty of reasons to feel free to take this tale as a take on Nick but to hang on to enough skepticism about pre-Gatsby Nick to ensure that Fitzgerald’s unreliable narrator remains a virtual enigma, maintaining that aspect of pleasure when reading the original.


People are going to have strong opinions about this novel. Taking a story that is so universally known and adding your own voice to it is a risky proposition, but Farris Smith more than delivers. Sure, some Gatsby connections feel heavy-handed. And plenty of people are going to take issue with what Nick did and did not do in this tale. But, even if someone has never read a word of Fitzgerald, they can pick this book up and enjoy it. If someone has read and reread Gatsby, this will be a pleasurable trip into “what if,” even if they end up discarding Farris Smith’s backstory for the one they have built in their own minds. Regardless, this is a volume worth reading. I think Farris Smith shines most brightly when he is free from the constraints of a classic and is able to go wherever he wishes (Desperation Road, The Fighter, Blackwood, etc.), but I am comfortable saying that he took the idea of a Gatsby prequel and did as well with it as anyone could.

1 person found this helpful

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Don’t waste your time....or credit.

A completely superfluous rip off of a classic novel and it’s immortal character. The book holds no clue as to whom Fitzgerald’s Gatsby was and, worse, isn’t even true to the original story. A waste of time on every level.

1 person found this helpful

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Like a Rolling Stones Cover Band...

I wanted to like it, but the writing seemed forced, ringing hollow against the backdrop of F. Scott’s lyrical prose. Perhaps it was the performance that also left the writing flat. His tone/inflection was inconsistent which distracted from the story. Overall, this was one of my least enjoyable Audible experiences.

1 person found this helpful

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  • LC
  • 01-13-21

Highly Recommend NICK

This novel explores the formative years of Nick Carraway, the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Farris Smith creates an imaginative backstory for Nick that travels from his hometown in Minnesota to WW1 Paris, Post-War New Orleans, back to the Midwest and then concludes with his arrival at the cottage in Long Island where Gatsby begins. His novel simultaneously pays homage to the tenor, tone and themes of Fitzgerald’s most famous work while inventively exploring Nick in his own voice. Highly recommend this 2021 release!

1 person found this helpful

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As others have mentioned, hardly about Nick

I enjoyed parts of it but the middle to the end felt long winded. I had trouble following the timing throughout the book, maybe it was intentional but it made the book harder to enjoy.

I think the writing could have been stronger in some parts as the content felt shocking when I think it could have been more subtle and just had more descriptive language to evoke the feeling.

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a neat idea but not something special

maybe good for a fan of a francophone culture because of a Paris and New Orleans setting. it would be better for me as a male listener if it had some kind of sexy female voice reading and performing the audiobook. it's a neat idea by the author and he's definitely capitalizing on F Scott Fitzgerald work becoming public domain in 2021. the war scenes in the beginning of the book where interesting. The love story was entertaining. The transition to New Orleans provided a neat setting, and Judahs character was well created. the way it ended helped to tie the novel together to The Great Gatsby but overall it just kind of was something that I would listen to once and probably not think about it again.

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Great Start but Falls Flat

It starts off amazing but the New Orleans sub plot is weird and makes you lose interest. I wish the Paris love story continued.

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  • r
  • 03-31-21

Bleak

I had such high hopes for this book. I had to force myself to finish it. The author is a very good, descriptive writer, however this story was grim and skipped about without a purpose. I was unable to recognize Fitzgerald’s Nick in Smith’s Nick. It was as if Smith wrote the sad story of a man coming out of WW1 and then decided at the last minute to say it was the prequel to The Great Gatsby.

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doesn't match with Gatsby

this is an interesting story, but there is no way this character is the one that later appears in gatsby. stories just don't match up.