Book Review: “The Pursued and The Pursuing” by A J Odasso.

WARNING: This review will include a spoiler for The Great Gatsby.

This story takes up where the Great Gatsby finished. In the final scene of the Great Gatsby, Wilson shoots Gatsby by his pool. In this story, Gatsby is saved by Nick and the servants and taken to hospital, where he recovers. I reread The Great Gatsby immediately before reading this. Fitzgerald manages to fold a great story into a short book, barely larger than a novella, it would take a lot to make a worthy sequel. The title The Pursued and the Pursuing is taken from a line at the end of the fourth chapter of The Great Gatsby.

A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”

Nick Carraway, chapter 4 The Great Gatsby

This book assumes knowledge of the Great Gatsby, as there are many back references to scenes from the original book. This book turns Nick, the narrator of the Great Gatsby and Jay Gatz into a romantic item. In the hospital as Gatsby is recovering, Nick speaks of Jordan his former girlfriend.

“I didn’t love Jordan,” I said defiantly. “I threw her over. What do you think of that?”
“Either you think she’s rotten, too,” Jay said simply, “or you prefer men.”

Neither character turn the other, it transpires that both had romantic liaisons with other men during the Great War. Also in the original, Nick runs into Tom one last time before he leaves New York. This is at the very end of the novel. Of the late Gatsby, Tom says, ‘That fellow had it coming to him. He threw dust in your eyes just like he did in Daisy’s….’ suggesting Nick might be gay and an unreliable narrator.

Once recovered, Jay and Nick travel around as a couple to Montreal and Quebec and then onto Europe before returning to America and settling in Boston, New York having too many dangers for the pair. Nick gives up his work selling bonds to become a popular columnist with the Boston Globe and Jay works in the Boston docks fixing up boats. The story then moves to the 1930s and Daisy reappears in the narrative and foists on Jay and Nick her teenage daughter Pam, who becomes a kind of surrogate daughter for the two men. Pam, as might be expected isn’t a typical girl psychologically or physiologically and the two men are smitten by her and she is unperturbed by their unconventional relationship. Fitzgerald might have been rather perturbed by how his characters have been changed in this book, Fitzgerald was very sensitive about his own masculinity.

At the end of the book, thinking back upon Jay and Nick’s life together, it feels languid and half-realized. In much the same way the Great Gatsby gives us a world of illusion and facade, Jay and Nick’s life together reads the same, IMHO. Fantastic parties where coworkers dance on tables and sneak off to the library for amorous trysts, epic love-soaked long train trips together, Venice, Paris, a charming house on Beacon Hill, a hazy summer exploring New Orleans (“an entire port-of-call filled with untainted memories for us to share.”), and so on.

The novel lacked the conflict and the over the top exuberance of the original. Some of the ideas seemed anachronistic for the 1930s the ideas of psychological closure and of gay marriage. Talking about a hotel Nick remarks “it’s popular for weddings” Pam gave me a sad sort of look, tilting her chin up. “Maybe someday,” she said, which was heartbreakingly clever. It wasn’t until 1970, that two men applied for a marriage license in the US.

This book serves as a what-if, posing the question “What would happen if Jay Gatsby didn’t die?”  It doesn’t live up to the strength of the original but the original is a tough act to follow.

Thank you to NetGalley, AJ Odasso, and publishers DartFrog Books , for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

My rating 3 out of 5


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