Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah ChurchwellCareless People by Sarah Churchwell
Published by Penguin on 1/23/2014
Source: Publisher
Pages: 432
Buy from IndieBound


In late 1922, twenty-six year old F. Scott Fitzgerald returns to New York to begin planning his novel The Great Gatsby. At the same time, in nearby New Jersey, a horrific double murder is followed by a botched police investigation and frenzied media circus. In Careless People, Fitzgerald scholar Sarah Churchwell follows Fitzgerald as he plans to write his most famous novel and investigates the impact of the events around him on the pages of The Great Gatsby

The description of the Mills-Hall murders and the suggestion that it influenced Fitzgerald’s writing was one of the first things that caught my attention when reading early summaries of Careless People. Yet, Churchwell’s careful balance in detailing the atmosphere of the 1920’s alongside the biographies of the Fitzgeralds is regularly weighed down by interruptions to describe the investigation into the murders. I found the sections that focused on Mills-Hall and their connection to The Great Gatsby to be somewhat distracting from the book as a whole and often wished they made up much less of the story. 

But there is still much to appreciate in the pages of Careless People. Churchwell’s research is meticulous, and her ability to blend history, biography and fiction into a single narrative is quite impressive. Careless People is a wonderful reminder of all the dynamics that come into play when writing a novel, as well as how far-reaching a piece of writing can be.

I’m linking up with Leah from Books Speak Volumes, who just reviewed Careless People yesterday and is hosting Jazz Age January, which is a month long event focused on books by Jazz Age authors or about the 1920’s. There’s still plenty of time to join up, squeeze in some great reading and maybe win one of the beautiful books Leah is giving away.