Friday, February 11, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

I saw the blurb for Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor and couldn’t resist – a retelling of The Great Gatsby from the women’s perspective. The original story is familiar to me both from the book and the movies. It’s a beautiful classic, of course, but it’s also vaguely unsatisfying, possibly because all the characters are so dissatisfied. 

Beautiful Little Fools
does away with Nick Carraway’s narration, turning him into a very peripheral character. Instead, we get a deep dive into the hearts of the female protagonists, Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker. A third woman, Catherine McCoy, a minor character in the original, is now also a main character — a third woman’s voice. Catherine is the sister of Myrtle (the woman who is tragically killed in The Great Gatsby.) The novel alternates among the three points of view to show what truly led up to the events of Gatsby, and (equally riveting) what happened after. 

A fourth viewpoint character, Detective Frank Charles, is the one decent man in the whole book. He’s attempting to solve the mystery of who really killed Jay Gatsby, even though the police have closed the case as a murder-suicide. His digging for truth is the impetus for the story.

This is a murder mystery embedded in multiple love stories. Are the characters still dissatisfied? Yes. A happily-ever-after ending would not have been true to the original. But the loves in this book — the loves of the women — are far deeper and truer than those in Gatsby, which dealt more with obsession and male-female power dynamics than love.

I tried to imagine if this book could stand alone for those who haven’t read or seen the original, but it’s impossible for me to come to this book “naive.” I expect it will still be absorbing for those who don’t know the Gatsby story. It would certainly make me want to read the original. It might be fun for someone unaware of the plot of The Great Gatsby to read this first and then compare. Either way, this book is not to be missed.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge