Check It Out! Gatsby and the Flu

It’s a well-known fact that I am not your most literary librarian.

I’m more of a nonfiction/history type of reader. Last night, I got to thinking about The Great Gatsby. I read it when I was 15 or 16 and never had to read it in school.

Heck – I tested out of college English and have never taken a literature class. A new book titled Nick was released this week about the narrator of Gatsby before his life in the Roaring 20s.

I’m also listening to a podcast called “When Diplomacy Fails” about the Treaty of Versailles after World War 1. What neither of these media touches upon is the Flu Pandemic of 1918 to 1920.

We’re taught that the horrors of the Great War and Prohibition created the Roaring 20s. I’m curious how much the flu actually is part of this era of great American literature and art.

The flu caused over 650,000 American deaths and was particularly hard on young people who’d already suffered the war. October 1918 was the first month that media censorship was lifted in the United States and reporting on the flu began.

The Laurinburg Exchange newspaper reported on November 28, 1918, that Chowan County had already lost 28 people to the flu in October 1918. The census from 1910 to 1920 showed a nearly 6% drop in population.

This came to mind this week when seeing the number of cars lined up this week for people to get the first course of the vaccine for the coronavirus. I was filled with joy and hope.

This is the first time since March I felt this way about the future. Is this how Gatsby, Nick and Daisy felt as they danced away the nights? Did they finally feel free to leave behind the difficulties of the past? What great literature and art will come from this time?

As much as this year has been a profound struggle for our nation and world – we do have history that can guide us to a brighter future. I wonder who our new F. Scott Fitzgerald will be to write the classic of the coming era.

Juvenile Fiction

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath – Nick Bruel

Young Adult

The Life I’m In – Sharon G. Flake


  • All the Colors of Night- Jayne Ann Krentz
  • Endless Mercy – Tracie Peterson
  • Neighbors – Danielle Steel
  • Spin – Patricia Cornwell
  • Twenty – James Grippando

Books on CD

  • All That Glitters – Danielle Steel
  • The Awakening – Nora Roberts
  • Hidden in Plain Sight – Jeffrey Archer
  • The Law of Innocence – Michael Connelly
  • Marauder – Clive Cussler
  • The Sentinel – Lee Child
  • Tantalizing Twenty-Six: Fortune and Glory – Janet Evanovich
  • Three Women Disappear – James Patterson
  • The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop – Fannie Flagg

Large Print

  • Deadly Cross – James Patterson
  • The Last Days of John Lennon – James Patterson
  • The Mockingbird’s Song – Wanda Brunstetter

Jennifer Finlay is the Shepard-Pruden Memorial Library librarian.