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Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby [Paperback]

Sarah Churchwell
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 13.99
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Book Description

6 Jun 2013

Since its publication in 1925, The Great Gatsby has become one of the world's best-loved books, delighting readers across the world. Careless People tells the true story behind F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, exploring in newly rich detail the relation of Fitzgerald's classic to the chaotic world he in which he lived. Fitzgerald set his novel in 1922, and Careless People carefully reconstructs the crucial months during which Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald returned to New York in the autumn of 1922 - the parties, the drunken weekends at Great Neck, Long Island, the drives back into the city to the jazz clubs and speakeasies, the casual intersection of high society and organized crime, and the growth of celebrity culture of which the Fitzgeralds themselves were the epitome. And for the first time it returns to the story of Gatsby and the high-profile murder that provided a crucial inspiration for Fitzgerald's tale.

With wit and insight, Sarah Churchwell traces the genesis of a masterpiece, discovering where fiction comes from, and how it takes shape in the mind of a genius. Blending biography and history with lost and forgotten newspaper accounts, letters, and newly discovered archival material, Careless People is the biography of a book, telling the extraordinary tale of how F. Scott Fitzgerald created a classic and in the process discovered modern America.


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Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby + Critical Studies: The Great Gatsby (Penguin Critical Studies) + The Great Gatsby (York Notes for AS & A2)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (6 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844087670
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844087679
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 711,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

[Sarah Churchwell] tells the story crisply and intelligently, judiciously deploying Fitzgerald's eminently quotable literary remains, and also Zelda's, which are often even better, in a sprightly, enjoyable and slightly strange book: part "biography" of the novel, part sketch of the roaring 1920s, part brief account of the second half of Fitzgerald's life. Churchwell is perceptive and well-informed (Guardian)

A perfect book to read alongside The Great Gatsby. Excellent (William Leith Evening Standard)

This book has as much spirit as gin fizz cocktails (Lady)

Book Description

A fascinating look at the autumn of 1922, when F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda returned to New York and the seeds for The Great Gatsby were sown

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive biography of The Great Gatsby 6 Aug 2013
Format:Hardcover
Careless People is both an exhillarating read and a masterly piece of scholarship, bringing to life Fitzgerald's (and Gatsby's) world of extraordinary parties, fast cars, fast women, jazz, bootleggers and speakeasies, the literari and the socialites.

I absolutely loved it - it's much more than a superb companion piece for The Great Gatsby, it's also an entertaining and exhaustively researched examination of the conception and genesis of the book Fitzgerald set out to make his masterpiece.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A 'biography' of The Great Gatsby 11 Mar 2014
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an interesting read but it's perhaps trying to do too many things at once which serve to detract from, rather than strengthen, its import and impact. Churchwell is writing a biography of the Fitzgeralds, especially during the year of 1922 when the Great Gatsby was set, even though it wasn't written and completed until a few years later. She is also offering interpretations and readings of the novel itself, alongside contextual information on e.g. prohibition, the gangster-crooks who built America etc. And, as a third and major strand, she excavates an unsolved murder that took place in 1922 and which she rather forces into what remains a tenuous relationship with Fitzgerald's novel.

The narrative itself is fragmented with short sections mimicking the scrapbooks which the Fitzgeralds themselves kept, and the constant switching between the various stories does give this a slightly bitty feel, as if it's written for a presumed hyperactive audience with a short attention span.

That said, this is a lively read which captures the frenetic atmosphere of the 1920s, and the way Fitzgerald himself lived, encapsulated and helped to construct the idea of the Jazz Age. I especially liked the way Churchwell makes extensive use of Fitzgerald's own words from letters, essays and other writings - though her refusal to use footnotes means that it's a little fiddly to trace the sources as we need to go though separate notes sections and then a bibliography.

Churchwell's articulation of the relationship between art and life is nuanced rather than simplistic: this would be a good read for anyone wanting to know more about the fascinating Fitzgeralds, the evolution of The Great Gatsby, and the world which it depicts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Nothing could have survived our life"... 27 Jan 2014
By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"Nothing could survive our life"; these words Zelda Fitzgerald wrote to her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, a year before his death. It was an early elegy to their life together; the copious drinking and partying for the 15 or so years they lived together drove them to a sad, sad end. How much of Scott's talent was dissipated due to their life style, both in America and in France? Could they have been saved from ruin if they had been able to control their drinking? I suppose we'll never know if Scott would have produced even more great novels and if Zelda would have produced her own work, past the autobiographical novel she did write.

Sarah Churchwell has written an excellent, though somewhat confusing, book about the Fitzgeralds, "The Great Gatsby", the "Roaring 20's" and the Jazz Age. Oh, and also about the notorious (for the time) "Hall-Mills" murder case of 1922. What did the murder of a married New Jersey minister and his married girlfriend have to do with the Fitzgeralds and the writing of "The Great Gatsby"? Not much that I can see, although Churchwell tries to make the case that the murders somehow influenced Fitzgerald's viewing of the rich world of Long Island high society. And this is where Sarah Churchwell goes wrong. Her story of the Fitzgeralds and their milieu - both real and fictional - does not need the Hall and Mills murders to be told.

I can't imagine the conversation between Sarah Churchwell and her editor and publisher when she approached them with the story she was writing about the Fitzgeralds and their age...and the Hall and Mills murder case. Surely someone involved in the project tried to tell Churchwell that the theory about the murders influencing Fitzgerald's writing was just not important - or provable - enough to be explored as part of the book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 31 July 2013
By Gillian
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fascinating book underpinned by thorough research. Ultimately one marvels how such an alcohol befuddled F Scott Fitzgerald could, nevertheless, produce such a well crafted novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Careless People 26 May 2013
By S Riaz HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"The Great Gatsby" was first published in 1925, but Fitzgerald set the novel in 1922, when he and Zelda returned to New York. Fitzgerald was planning his new novel and he wanted to do something different - it would take him two years to finish Gatsby and, in a way, this is a biography of a novel. For, in this book, the author cleverly takes us through the time that Scott and Zelda spent in New York - the events that influenced him and the eighteen months he spent in Great Neck, just outside the city.

1922 was a remarkable year, which began with the publication of "Ulysses" and ended with "The Waste Land". This book seeks the origins of Gatsby, reconstructs the Jazz Age, and shows how Fitzgerald reflected the stories around him. The major news story at that time was that of the murder of Eleanor Mills, a married woman, and her lover Edward Hall; who were shot through the head near an abandoned farmhouse, their love letters scattered around the corpses. The murder of the adulterous couple held America spellbound and was in the newspapers for virtually the entire time that Fitzgerald was in New York.

When Scott and Zelda decided to look for a house in Great Neck, it was a former fishing village that was becoming popular with the rich and famous - "the Hollywood of the East" and which he re-named 'West Egg' in his novel. His time there is exhausting to even read about, with a backdrop of financial swindles, scandals and fads, car accidents, bootleggers, speakeasies, endless parties, bad behaviour and epic drinking binges. Throughout "Careless People", Sarah Churchwell ties everything together into how it relates to The Great Gatsby, with the chapters of her book corresponding to the chapters of the novel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The best !!!!!
Fantastic book and super fast postage. Thank you, the best service!!!!
Published 21 days ago by Lyuda
4.0 out of 5 stars illuminating
Important, interesting and informative. The fondness I have for this book (The Great Gatsby) has been increased and I will go back to it once more soon.
Published 2 months ago by Martin Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Reviewed for the Cote d'Azur Men's Book Group by IRB Hibbitt
The Roaring Twenties swept through America oblitorating normal conventions with Prohibition, corrupt cops, bootleggers and the very wealthy had a non stop ball. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ivor R. B. Hibbitt
3.0 out of 5 stars Too long to get to the end
The more I read 'Careless People' the more bogged down I got with all the information in this long and intensive book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by margaretw
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
Brilliant. Used as study aid for a level English lit and read for pleasure by me. A great all round
Published 4 months ago by Diane Holland
4.0 out of 5 stars If ever a novel deserves its own biography, it would be The Great...
The writer John O'Hara commented at F. Scott Fitzgerald's funeral that "he should have been killed in a Bugatti in the south of France", and I can't think of a more... Read more
Published 6 months ago by C. Ball
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and compelling
This is a must for anyone intrigued by the novel, the era and the Fitzgeralds. Churchwell writes well, with a clear interrogative and insightful mind. Read more
Published 6 months ago by NicolaSiix
4.0 out of 5 stars FACT, FICTION & FITZGERALD
I found CARELESS PEOPLE in the New Fiction section of my local Barnes and Noble. Interested by all things dealing with THE GREAT GATSBY, I was surprised to discover, whilst... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Richard Masloski
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating story, beautifully written
I loved this book - I felt something was missing from my life when I'd finished it. I felt that I had a better understanding of the Great Gatsby after reading about the life of the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by PJ
3.0 out of 5 stars Biography of a book.
I liked the idea of reading the biography of the novel. The author mixes passages from Gatsby with bits of biography of Fitzgerald and Zelda,snippets of contemporary life and a lot... Read more
Published 10 months ago by KAW
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