Sarah Churchwell: Careless People

If you’re a fan – a serious fan – or even a serious scholar immersed in “The Great Gatsby”, you will thoroughly enjoy Sarah Churchwell’s “Careless People” where she brings together her research into the life and times of 1922, the year in which the novel is set. Subtitled “Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby” it sets out to piece together the chaotic world behind Gatsby. At a Book Festival session chaired by Richard Holloway she set out some of the results of her findings, facts and observations drawn together from newspaper archives and many other sources. She makes much of a famous at the time real life murder which would have been known to Fitzgerald, where the victims could well have been a model for the Buchanan/ Wilson protagonists. Churchwell may have the occasional original apercu, but the book is probably most interesting for the garnering together between one set of covers the results of countless studies on this novel, as well as detailed facts about everyday life and opinions at that time. One fact new to me was that traffic signals had not been standardised in 1922, and that the green light across the harbour from Gatsby’s house could equally be a metaphor for him to stop his longing, rather than the lure it is usually read as being. As a companion to the great American novel, this book presents us with the America that Scott and Zelda really inhabited, the city of parties and speakeasies, crime and wealth. From the background we can glean the inspiration for this masterpice, and add much to our appreciation of a great novel.

Careless People is in Kindle, Hardback, and Paperback at Amazon.

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