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Review: Libby Sternberg's Daisy
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Monday, August 8, 2022


There are two sides to every story, and as someone once said: "Beware of the half-truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half."

If you read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, you are aware the yarn is narrated through the voice of Nick Carraway. He was Jay Gatsby's neighbor and the cousin of Daisy Faye Buchanan.

Libby Sternberg's Daisy preserves the outline of The Great Gatsby, but as she points out in a recent conversation with Master's Degree writing student Andrea L. Dorten: "I only wanted to stick to the outline of the plot of the major story, not its details."

Thus, the love story between Jay and Daisy, which ensued during a chaotic summer in the 1920s, is maintained and is pivotal to the narrative. However, it draws on a new perspective when we tune in to the voice of Daisy disclosing how events unfolded.

In the last few pages of the yarn, Sternberg writes: "when she came up with the idea of imagining the Gatsby story from Daisy's point of view, she knew the novel could not be a mere point-by-point retelling of that famous tale. It had to convey something more, something readers either didn't get from the original or felt was missing and would enjoy seeing, a sort of behind-the-scenes look at the story."

She wanted a fresh take as if Fitzgerald's story had not been read before Daisy.

Sternberg portrays Daisy as a figure far from being a capricious woman who is irrational, unstable and empty-headed. She explains her Daisy is nothing like Fitzgerald's character, who "is not real, a woman two men coveted but whose physicality is something distant or even symbolic, like that green light at the end of her pier. She is a possession, sought after and jealously guarded."

Daisy is instead someone who is conflicted as she explores the uneasiness that prevail between security and autonomy, fidelity and infidelity, defying convention, and having a lover while hanging on in a loveless marriage. She also questions if she can recapture the pre-war past where she was involved with Jay in an Eden in which they had grown up. As she tells herself, "There is no going back, only moving forward."

When Daisy's friend Jordan mentions that if you wish to have a lover, as men do all the time, why should she hold back? (Both are aware that Daisy's husband, Tom, is a philanderer and has a mistress). Daisy counters, reminding Jordan she has taken risks, and it does not require courage to take a lover, as Jordan believes, but bravery to make a go of things.

The down-to-earth side of Daisy's personality is affirmed when she admits to herself that she craves to escape Tom for Jay, with whom she is carrying on a liaison. Still, upon reflection, she questions whether she could stick around with him. And as she remarks: "A fog of uncertainty blocked me from seeing that future clearly; I wanted to plan for contingencies." Could she recapture her pre-war past where she was involved with Jay in a fairyland, where it was peaceful, hopeful, loving and gentle? She realizes there is no going back, only moving forward, and she resolves that she will never be anyone's fool again. "I'd not be the golden girl. I'd not be the one treated like an object, or a goddess to be used."

Another variation, and a jolt from Fitzgerald's fiction, concerns the letter Daisy receives from Jay on the eve of her marriage to Tom. Her version, as different from Carraway's, which incidentally almost had her calling off the wedding, pins down the real motorist of the automobile that ran over her husband's mistress.

The evocative prose gathers strength and clarity as the novel evolves. Sternberg reminds us the 1920s were a challenging period for many American women. Their task was to raise children, keep house, provide emotional support for their husbands, and contribute to society. Instead, they were depicted as the weaker sex requiring protection, frail beings incompetent of doing everything that man could do. The era was further marked by a deeply divided America, where the affluence of many Americans was in harsh contrast to the hardship of millions of others.

You may ask if you should read The Great Gatsby before undertaking Daisy? The answer is no. You don't have to read the original or be acquainted with Fitzgerald to appreciate this novel for its own sake, with its tight writing, crisp dialogue, and a protagonist with brains, poise, and boldness.

Sternberg has created a delicious story, ambitious in scope and absorbing.

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Libby Sternberg


 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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