Friday, September 2, 2011

Staff Picks! Gatsby's Girl by Caroline Preston

Somewhat in the manner of this year's The Paris Wife, Caroline Preston imagines the fledgling romance between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ginerva King (renamed Perry) in Gatsby's Girl. Ginerva was the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

Ginerva Perry is a spoiled socialite, very young, very immature and careless of the feelings of others. She impulsively becomes engaged to an unsuitable young man and finds herself packed off to school. There she meets young F. Scott Fitzgerald and a letter writing romance commences after a very passionate first encounter.

When F. Scott Fitzgerald visits her home he shows himself to be a boorish drinker. He does not fit in with her world and she dismisses him in favour of Bill Granger, a romantic young airman. They marry and the romance quickly fades. She finds herself bored and unhappy with her life, her husband and her two children. Meanwhile Fitzgerald is gaining fame as a writer. Ginerva recognizes herself in his stories and begins to obsess about his life and what might have been.

It took Ginerva a while to grow up. It was almost frustrating and painful to see her so neglectful of her own life and desperately looking for versions of herself in Fitzgerald's writing. Gatsby's Girl is a moving character study which eventually shows her growing into a mature woman. It was intoxicating for find herself as someone's muse when her own was so dissatisfying. It took some time to see that Fitzgerald's interest in status and fame made for a life as empty as her own.

Preston takes many liberties with Ginerva King as did Kelly O'Connor McNees in The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. "Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa's writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life." publisher

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