Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor

Book Blurb:

USA Today bestselling author Jillian Cantor reimagines and expands on the literary classic The Great Gatsby in this atmospheric historical novel with echoes of Big Little Lies, told in three women’s alternating voices.

On a sultry August day in 1922, Jay Gatsby is shot dead in his West Egg swimming pool. To the police, it appears to be an open-and-shut case of murder/suicide when the body of George Wilson, a local mechanic, is found in the woods nearby.

Then a diamond hairpin is discovered in the bushes by the pool, and three women fall under suspicion. Each holds a key that can unlock the truth to the mysterious life and death of this enigmatic millionaire.

Daisy Buchanan once thought she might marry Gatsby—before her family was torn apart by an unspeakable tragedy that sent her into the arms of the philandering Tom Buchanan.

Jordan Baker, Daisy’s best friend, guards a secret that derailed her promising golf career and threatens to ruin her friendship with Daisy as well.

Catherine McCoy, a suffragette, fights for women’s freedom and independence, and especially for her sister, Myrtle Wilson, who’s trapped in a terrible marriage.

Their stories unfold in the years leading up to that fateful summer of 1922, when all three of their lives are on the brink of unraveling. Each woman is pulled deeper into Jay Gatsby’s romantic obsession, with devastating consequences for all of them.

Jillian Cantor revisits the glittering Jazz Age world of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, retelling this timeless American classic from the women’s perspective. Beautiful Little Fools is a quintessential tale of money and power, marriage and friendship, love and desire, and ultimately the murder of a man tormented by the past and driven by a destructive longing that can never be fulfilled.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own, and I am writing a voluntary review.

AnnaScott’s Review:

Pause for a second, and look at the cover of this book. It perfectly captures all of the Great Gatsby vibes, and I’m kinda in love with it. Now on to the story itself.

We are all likely, at least a little bit, familiar with the story of The Great Gatsby. Nick Carraway moves to West Egg and becomes neighbors with the mysterious Jay Gatsby, who is famous for hosting extravagant parties at his Gothic mansion. Nick gets involved with Gatsby, Jordan Baker, Daisy Buchanan, and Myrtle Wilson (Daisy’s husband’s mistress), eventually learning that Gatsby is borderline obsessed with Daisy. Fast forward through a lot of drama, and (spoiler alert) the story ends with the death of Gatsby, Myrtle, and Myrtle’s husband George. Now, with this book, we get the same story, but told through the eyes of Daisy, Jordan, and Catherine (a new character who is Myrtle’s sister).

I must say that I am impressed by how much Cantor was able to add to the original story without changing many details. We don’t get much of the characters’ backstories in the original, and this really fleshes out each of the main characters, enabling us to understand the motivations behind their actions. She did an especially good job with the ending, keeping it the same as in the original but with a whole new layer added to the mystery shrouding the three deaths. Even though I read The Great Gatsby, this felt entirely new and I still had no idea how it was going to end.

My only disappointment with this book is that – going into it – I was really hoping that it would help me like the characters more than I did in the original. I wanted to root for them, but I felt like it kept in line with the original, proving the corrupting power of wealth, and that pursuing the “American Dream” and happiness has really just turned into trying to obtain more wealth and power. While I admire Cantor’s ability to further illustrate Fitzgerald’s point, watching characters be continually unhappy wasn’t the most enjoyable to read. In all fairness, though, I said this about the original, as well as other books written in that era. I’m also a die-hard “everyone gets a happily ever after” person, and no one really got one here.

Overall, I loved the writing style and how Cantor interpreted the original, and as a piece of literature it deserves five stars. As a pleasure read, though, it wasn’t as enjoyable to read as I was hoping. If you loved the original or are into the tragically meaningful style, though, then you’re in for a treat!

Content warning: There is a smattering of language throughout, though it is generally mild. In addition, the book takes place during the early 1920s, where society is starting to become less strict in their sexual activities. As a result, there are several occurrences of people having affairs, there is one encounter that could be considered rape, and the story gets quite up close and personal in regards to all of the romantic relationships (including a lesbian one).


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