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ARC Review: Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor


Publishing Date: February 1, 2022


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.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was hauntingly beautiful. It was so sad and desperate and hopeless, watching Daisy and Jordan and Catherine’s lives crashing down around them. I couldn’t look away.

The structure was brilliant, getting each of the women’s perspective as their lives slowly intertwined and tangled around one another. Adding brief interjections from the detective trying to solve the case of Gatsby’s murder was brilliant as well, heightening the tension as the lies mounted up.

I’ve always thought the Great Gatsby was a beautiful and tragic story, but getting Jay’s story through Nick wasn’t nearly so tragic as this. Nick’s perspective was that of an outsider looking in at a gin-soaked world of parties. Daisy and Jordan and Catherine had so much more depth to them, because women, even rich women, had so much less power than the men.

I was riveted the entire time I read, drawn in to the darkly glittering world, but drawn in the most because of Daisy and Jordan and Catherine’s humanity. They felt so real, so alive, so timeless.

I was bracing myself the entire time, waiting for the final crash at the end, but Jillian Cantor managed to infuse it with just a touch of hope and made me love it all the more for how unexpected it was.

This is a story I will be reading again and recommending to all my friends.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Perennial for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

Daisy sounded petulant, but oddly, it was the first time it had ever occurred to me that there might be a difference between the two, that it might be impossible to be both good and happy.


That was life, wasn’t it? Everything you could never believe happening to you, happening just like that, right before your very eyes.


I’d been feeling this way for a few weeks now, since we’d moved here from France. Weary and restless at the same time. It was hard to breathe and even harder to remember to smile.


It made me soften toward him a little, as I felt the way inside that his face looked: angry and disappointed and a little bit sad.


Myrtle? It felt funny to know she had a name, that she was a real, living breathing woman who desired something unattainable too. Just like the rest of us. Golf. Daisy. Tom and the west.


Of course, Nick agreed. Nick agreed to everything that summer. If you looked up agreeable in Merriam-Webster’s I was pretty sure you’d see Nick’s photograph.


And the way her face turned in that moment, it hit me that she would someday grow to be a woman. I wanted more for her than to be a fool. I never wanted men to treat Pammy the way they treated me. I wanted her to be brave and bold, and fearless and independent.


“She’s a little you, isn’t she Daisy?” he said.

His words burned my face, my heart. Pammy had to be better. I wanted so much better for her. I had to make sure she was better.


They were all the same, weren’t they? They all wanted nothing more than to ruin me. It was utterly exhausting to be a woman.


“I don’t want a safe life,” I told him, much to his chagrin. “I want a good life. I want a meaningful life.”


And maybe that was the last and biggest lie of all. That what I would do next with my life would be good enough to make up for what I had done.


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