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The Chosen and the Beautiful

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Immigrant. Socialite. Magician. Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her. But the wo Immigrant. Socialite. Magician. Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her. But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how. Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.


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Immigrant. Socialite. Magician. Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her. But the wo Immigrant. Socialite. Magician. Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her. But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how. Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.

30 review for The Chosen and the Beautiful

  1. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    This book built such beautiful, ruinous, indelible images in my mind. When I think back on the experience of reading The Chosen and the Beautiful I think of freshly pressed silk slipping over skin and fingers sliding through hair and delicate cords of bright pearls shimmering on bare throats like sunrise on water. And a glimmer of something else too, something sharp and treacherous beneath the smooth surface: shards from a mirror that tipped off a shelf and shattered and rivulets of molten blood This book built such beautiful, ruinous, indelible images in my mind. When I think back on the experience of reading The Chosen and the Beautiful I think of freshly pressed silk slipping over skin and fingers sliding through hair and delicate cords of bright pearls shimmering on bare throats like sunrise on water. And a glimmer of something else too, something sharp and treacherous beneath the smooth surface: shards from a mirror that tipped off a shelf and shattered and rivulets of molten blood and faint scratches from a single nail painted slick black. “Death doesn't come to Gatsby's,” went the rumor, and it might even have been true. Certainly ugliness didn't, and neither did morning or hangovers or hungers that could not be sated. Those things waited for us outside the gates, so whoever wanted to go home? Nghi Vo reimagines The Great Gatsby with sensuality, queerness, and a glass-sharp beauty, and it’s like returning to a love-worn poem that had melted away into half-remembered snatches and finding that it contained a new meaning. Everything is new, and everything is familiar, all at once. Fitzgerald never managed writing as ravishingly beautiful as this. Vo’s writing, with its luxuriance and precise command of tone, has a meticulous quality to it, as if every word was a jewel laid out very carefully on a tray. I gnawed over the prose, read several passages out loud, rolled them out around my head, found out how they moved on my tongue, until it felt like I was absorbing them, or they were absorbing me. Until there was no room in me for anything else. The plot of The Chosen and the Beautiful skims forward with languid grace, dropping like petals from a blown rose. I liked how the novel unwinds itself in its own way and in its own time, unfolding its clever, complicated machinations with wicked skill. How it hoards its secrets like a miser their stash of gold, and reveals its answers slowly, patiently. Without tolerance for the pace and withholding nature, a reader might not find the novel to their liking, but those willing to be patient will be richly, amply rewarded. But The Chosen and the Beautiful isn’t only a remarkable achievement of craft; it is a skillful feat of reinvention as well. The places where old memories meet new, new money meets old gods, and the beautiful mundane is interrupted by papercut magic—the places where the two stories crisscross, mash, and fight where they intersect—the novel’s own beautiful tense dance with its source material—constitute the novel’s most rewarding experiment. The Chosen and the Beautiful knifes through the canon from which it sprung, sinks its jaws down to the bone, devours what’s rotten about it, and delicately chews it into a vivid evocation of the immigrant experience, a very deliberate indictment of white supremacy, and most winningly, a sharp, clear-eyed, and deep-diving delineation of the human nature, in all its complicated glory. Much like Jordan Baker’s magic allows her to feel the spark in all paper and nurse it forth to make it grow into flame, Vo digs up characters we think we already know and shows us that they can be far more complicated and interesting than we ever dreamed. Jordan Baker, the original, is a minor character in someone else’s play, required to stay in the story no matter how hard she resisted. But in Vo’s hands, she is rendered glaringly alive and impressive. Nghi Vo’s Jordan Baker is a dazzling, cruel rendition of the original: she is a beautiful, mordant socialite who sharpened herself into the kind of girl who wasn’t easy to shatter. She is a queer orphaned immigrant—plucked as a child from the soil of Tonkin by a white missionary woman and brought to America, where she snagged halfway between “a charming oddity and a foreign conspiracy”—who taught herself how to slip, like a silken ribbon, through predominantly rich, white, and cishet spaces. She is a magician learning how to lay more than just secret furtive claims to her heritage, as though it were a sun-warmed stone that is too hot for the touch. Though Jordan draws the reader's attention like a beacon, Vo pours just as much care into her other characters. She lets Daisy slip her moorings—Daisy who is only true when she breaks, when all that was sweet in her withers and falls away, like a new apple splitting its rind to reveal a core crawling with maggots—and draws as much fire from Nick’s character—Nick who had severed the strands of his past like stray threads before they could tie knots in his heart only to bind it in Gatsby’s coils. And, of course, there is Gatsby, with his elegant cruelty, his tender malevolence, and his eyes which pulled like the tide, no matter how hard you swam against it. Gatsby who had risen so far in the world by bartering away his soul, and had the whole city dancing to his tune, glittering in his halls, stumbling drunk, stupid with freedom, and crammed with demoniac. Gatsby who was unburdened by everything except desire, destroying himself in longing for magic, for money, for Daisy, for belonging, until the price was paid, and it was too late to claim it back. Through her glittering and terrifying characters, Vo tells a violently stunning story about existing half in one world, half in another, disdained and desired by both, and unable to decide where you belong, about the clenched fist of hunger in your belly that wants to seek, to be seen, to belong, and about the dreams that look like plumage but sit on your shoulders like a cloak lined with lead, threatening to press you, boneless, to the ground. When I looked at famous Jay Gatsby, soul gone and some terrible engine he called love driving him now, I could see that for him, the world was always ending. For him, it was all a wreck and a ruin, and he had no idea why the rest of us weren't screaming. You know that deep terrible wound of loving a story that does not love you back? There is something like sweet syrupy catharsis, like a salve, about Vo’s reimagining of The Great Gatsby that still washes over me in waves: how it folds back the curtains on what’s missing and fills in the gaps, how it invites questioning, interrogating, and lights up the dark shadows our monuments casts. How it feels edged, like a challenge: we will carve out a space in the stories that refuse to make rooms for us, and we will watch as new flowers spring up through the cracks, upright and open to collect the light. ☆ ko-fi ★ blog ☆ twitter ★ tumblr ☆

  2. 5 out of 5

    ELLIAS (elliasreads)

    A GREAT GATSBY RETELLING WITH AN ASIAN AMERICAN QUEER CHARACTER?????!!!!!!!???? SIGN. ME. THE. HELL. UP. !!!!!!!!

  3. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    Jordan Baker slips in and out of people’s lives and homes, not for being quiet or unreachable but for being exoticized for her Vietnamese looks and background, despite having enough wealth and status to fit in with high society. When I first heard of The Chosen and the Beautiful and its twist in retelling the story through Jordan’s eyes, I was intrigued. I’d wondered about Jordan’s character in the original The Great Gatsby, and I thought that Nghi Vo’s decision to make her a queer Vietnamese ad Jordan Baker slips in and out of people’s lives and homes, not for being quiet or unreachable but for being exoticized for her Vietnamese looks and background, despite having enough wealth and status to fit in with high society. When I first heard of The Chosen and the Beautiful and its twist in retelling the story through Jordan’s eyes, I was intrigued. I’d wondered about Jordan’s character in the original The Great Gatsby, and I thought that Nghi Vo’s decision to make her a queer Vietnamese adoptee with magic would create a version of The Great Gatsby that I actually enjoyed. While I did like the book to a certain extent, as well as the way Vo wrote Jordan and made her feel more real than she did in the original, I wanted so much more from The Chosen and the Beautiful. More usage of the mysterious magic that seemed randomly mentioned at times, more exploration of identity, more diverging from the original story. I wondered if that was what love was, making someone forget the pain that gnawed at them and would not stop. There are two big reasons that this book fell flat for me, one being that it stays so strictly loyal to The Great Gatsby, and the other being that I was utterly bored by The Great Gatsby. It didn’t help that I’d read The Great Gatsby less than a year ago, which meant I remembered the original plotline well and therefore there was nothing new to entice me with where The Chosen and the Beautiful’s story went, barring the new changes Vo made. And those changes, unfortunately, were just not enough for me. I’d hoped the added elements would make the story more interesting for me—and they did, but only barely. The magic was something I was excited for, but it wasn’t extensive as I thought it would be. I was interested by the paper magic that Jordan practiced, especially as a form of heritage and exploring identity, but overall it felt as if the world and the story wouldn’t be much affected if you took the magic out. I also wished Vo had taken more time to really dive into Jordan’s anguish over her feelings of unbelonging—which sounds a little odd, but there were some places I thought could’ve done more justice to her struggles, I guess, rather than bringing them up and then moving on. The book as a whole seemed to have an issue of mentioning things (ie. demons, imps, feelings of internalized racism) but not actually going anywhere with them, when that was all I wanted. When you’re alone so much, realizing that you’re not is terribly upsetting. If the plot had differed more from The Great Gatsby, if the new twists Vo made had been carried out with more influence on the original storyline, I might have loved this. I still did enjoy it—Jordan’s character was exactly the way I imagined her and more, and Vo’s writing was genuinely stunning and brought the world of the glittering 1920s to life in a way Fitzgerald’s never did for me. I also almost DNFed this, when I read it a couple of months ago and couldn’t comprehend a single thing that was going on, but I enjoyed it more and felt more immersed in the story when I gave it another chance. If you are a fan of The Great Gatsby, though, or if you have never read it, you will likely adore this a lot more than I did. All I can say is that I am grateful this story exists for the people who will get to appreciate it more. Jordan Baker’s story of living delicately on the edge of loved or disdained is one many queer Asians can relate to, and hopefully, The Chosen and the Beautiful’s challenging of the straight white canon can help them feel that they deserve to take up a little more space in the world. —★— :: representation :: Vietnamese American wlw MC, part Thai mlm character, biracial (Black, Chippewa) character, Vietnamese side characters :: content warnings :: murder, domestic abuse, racism (including internalized), drinking, abortion // buddy read with my faves

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    ↠ 5 stars This Great Gatsby retelling with a queer Asian main character has reinvented an American literary classic entirely for the better. Legendary pro golfer Jordan Baker has never been one to shy away from success. Being a queer, adopted, Vietnamese immigrant means having to work twice as hard to be taken seriously in a world that likes to treat her like an exotic centerpiece more often than not. With the 1920’s set in motion, the secluded speakeasies and intoxicating parties are at the cent ↠ 5 stars This Great Gatsby retelling with a queer Asian main character has reinvented an American literary classic entirely for the better. Legendary pro golfer Jordan Baker has never been one to shy away from success. Being a queer, adopted, Vietnamese immigrant means having to work twice as hard to be taken seriously in a world that likes to treat her like an exotic centerpiece more often than not. With the 1920’s set in motion, the secluded speakeasies and intoxicating parties are at the center of focus, but for Jordan her past is a constant presence demanding inquiry. In this stellar debut, author Nghi Vo peels back the gilded exterior of a decade to reveal its flawed heart. A magical, glimmering testament to retellings everywhere, and the future of the literary canon. When I heard that one of my favorite authors was taking a stab at reimagining one of the most iconic American novels, I could not wait to get my hands on an early copy. The Great Gatsby has never been of any real interest to me after being told to read it for english class in high school. It’s one of those stories that just barely grazed the surface of the complexity of the characters and the time period in which it was centered. A story that, in my opinion, has been extremely overly fixated on in the American education system for it being what it is: rather monotonous. In that way, Nghi Vo has expertly reexamined this classic, creating a layered character study full of all the glitz and glam associated with the roaring twenties. Having read Vo’s previous two novellas When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, the idea that this would be a devastatingly heartbreaking debut did cross my mind. That the actual story went above and beyond my expectations is truly astonishing. Jordan Baker particularly, has quite a reputation for being a rather overlooked character from the original novel and I loved everything that Vo infused into the barebones of her character. The exploration of her Vietnamese heritage and her magical affinity tied in with the rest of the story in a way that was so inventive. As we progress through the events that mirror those of the first half of the original novel, we see them through Jordans eyes, while Vo simultaneously examines the negative aspects corresponding to the time period. The complexities to Jordans identities come into play in new ways, while the story starts to deviate and take on its own form, creating what is an altogether new commentary on race, gender, and class for the decade. What this has wholeheartedly exemplified is that every classic should be getting a retelling. I fully expect that The Chosen and the Beautiful will be replacing The Great Gatsby in every high school curriculum upon its release. This beautiful, evocative novel will have fans of literary fiction waiting on bated breath for more from its brilliant author. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this arc in exchange for an honest review Trigger warnings:blood, violence, death, death of a loved one, abortion, alcohol consumption, cheating, racism, homophobia, microaggressions

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    ARC provided by Tor - thank you so much! "...like some kind of sacrament that I had forgotten to take." a queer asian-american main character great gatsby? i knew i needed this in my life. i will be honest, i have never been the biggest fan of the great gatsby, so i do believe this impacted my enjoyment a little bit, because this book does very much still hold true to the original work! but i still thought this was a beautiful reimaging, with such lush prose and one liners, that left my heart ARC provided by Tor - thank you so much! "...like some kind of sacrament that I had forgotten to take." a queer asian-american main character great gatsby? i knew i needed this in my life. i will be honest, i have never been the biggest fan of the great gatsby, so i do believe this impacted my enjoyment a little bit, because this book does very much still hold true to the original work! but i still thought this was a beautiful reimaging, with such lush prose and one liners, that left my heart beating so very quickly so many times. the magic was also so hauntingly perfect and i know it's something i'm going to think about constantly for quite some time. the themes of identity within the story were also very important, and how no matter how much you feel like you fit in, people will always remind you that you will never truly be one of them. and the themes of identify outside the story, and how we deserve to carve out our own spaces, we deserve to be the main protagonists of beloved classics and modern day lit, and our voices deserve to not only be told, but to be amplified really was everything to me as a queer asian reader. i can't wait to read more by this author, and i'm very thankful that the chosen and the beautiful is a book that exists. content and trigger warnings: a lot of talk of drinking, talk of war, talk of loss of loved ones, death, murder, racism, microaggressions, a lot of cheating, abuse / domestic abuse, mention of suicide, mention of slavery, mention of blood. Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch Buddy read with May, Ju, & Maëlys!

  6. 5 out of 5

    ELLIAS (elliasreads)

    Slow and moving, this one takes the classic spin of the tale we all know and love- expanding the story to brighter and better heights in Nghi Vo's The Chosen and the Beautiful. Not gonna lie, I had rather high expectations regarding this book. This retelling is almost point for point from the original storyline with some slight key differences. The parties though, are definitely a spectacular sight to explore and feel through. I just wished there were more elements that were explored and explain Slow and moving, this one takes the classic spin of the tale we all know and love- expanding the story to brighter and better heights in Nghi Vo's The Chosen and the Beautiful. Not gonna lie, I had rather high expectations regarding this book. This retelling is almost point for point from the original storyline with some slight key differences. The parties though, are definitely a spectacular sight to explore and feel through. I just wished there were more elements that were explored and explained upon in the book (Jordan's ability, the magic system, maybe even forking off from the original stance and story of the Great Gatsby and blooming into something else, something vastly different.) Overall, somewhat ravishing and delightful, it still didn't quite quench that thirst and curiosity I had prior before heading into the book. You can watch my reading vlog here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EcB_.... 4 STARS Twitter | Bookstagram | Youtube |

  7. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘there was a monstrous want there, remorseless and relentless, and it made my stomach turn that it thought itself love.’ When I first heard The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo was a queer The Great Gatsby retelling featuring Jordan as a queer Vietnamese refugee “rescued” by wealthy white socialites, I instantly knew this was something I needed. I had quite enjoyed her earlier novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune and knew F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic was in capable hands. This novel surpri ‘there was a monstrous want there, remorseless and relentless, and it made my stomach turn that it thought itself love.’ When I first heard The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo was a queer The Great Gatsby retelling featuring Jordan as a queer Vietnamese refugee “rescued” by wealthy white socialites, I instantly knew this was something I needed. I had quite enjoyed her earlier novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune and knew F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic was in capable hands. This novel surprised me, all in good ways, and truly enhances the original. By centering the perspective with Jordan, Vo centers a BIPOC woman experience in what was a male-driven novel and unlocks a treasure trove of fresh impressions. Truth be told, I’ve never been all that enamoured with Gatsby. I’ve read it thrice for three different classes (which really demonstrated how good teaching really changes your thoughts on a book) and while Fitzgerald can write a perfect sentence and there are many layers of brilliance in it, it’s not one I think of often. So revisiting it in this way was very enticing. Vo brings the original to life in fresh, exciting ways that examine race, class and demonic powers (YEP) in this absorbing rendition of a classic. In her essay On the Politics of Literature, Judith Fetterley wrote of The Great Gatsby: ’[T]he background for the experience of disillusionment and betrayal revealed in the novel is the discovery of America, and Daisy’s failure of Gatsby is symbolic of the failure of America to live up to the expectations in the imaginations of the men who “discovered it”. America is female; to be American is male.’ To this final statement Nghi Vo is here to add the attribute “white”. In Chosen and the Beautiful, Jordan is able to be included in the circle of high society (white) people, but due to being Vietnamese she often finds doors closed and elbows ready to keep her at bay. She is often seen at best as a curiosity and tokenism in a high society that often demands gratitude as if to minimize individual traumas. Perhaps the most important fresh perspectives on Fitzgerald’s novel, which does directly confront class relations and the gatekeeping of established family dynasties, are the ways in which Vo investigates aspects of racism, misogyny and colonialism that are glossed over or ignored in white, male literature about the era. Granted, Fitzgerald opens his novel with Tom citing xenophobic rhetoric he read from a book. Vo’s novel begins here as well. While it is fairly brushed off by Fitzgerald’s characters, it does a lot of heavy lifting of character-building to let you know exactly what kind of rich white man Tom is and rightfully casts judgement on the rest of the room for allowing it unchecked. With Vo we see how this makes Jordan uncomfortable, but her silence isn’t one of accommodation but a coached silence anyone outside the obdurate “norm” has had imposed upon them. This xenophobia continues in Vo’s novel as discussion of Congress working on a racist “Manhattan Act”, always reminding Jordan that despite how far she has made it into powerful circles she is ultimately Othered and unwanted, a lesson Fitzgerald’s Gatsby learns in terms of class and “old vs new money”. Of the class conflict, Vo dives in and shows how systemic it is with race and conquest, giving a shape to the evils at the heart of this that demands that ‘there would always be a human price for his luxury’. While this isn’t the primary theme of the novel, it casts a long shadow over every page. Through Jordan, Vo is able to spend much of the novel looking at her relationship with Daisy and examining her character in fresh ways. ‘Don’t get too close to Daisy Fey,’ she is warned, ‘only a disaster my dear.’ While the novel can be quite critical of Daisy, it also examines the power imbalance between men and women in society. Jordan is also sexually fluid with both men and women, which is an excellent touch to a book expanding on the various power hierarchies of the original text. ‘She said things, they lit up gold in the air, and then they fell to nothing like so much cigarette ash,’ Jordan says of Daisy, paralleling Gatsby’s disillusionment in a new way. It wasn’t until the third class I’d read Gatsby that a professor finally pointed out the scene where Nick goes home with an older man and that his passion for Gatsby as well as his willingness to aid him and believe in him may have come from romantic aspirations. Here Nick’s relation with Gatsby is much more laid bare for multiple purposes and quite wonderfully fleshes out Nick’s character and motives even though he is decentered into a peripheral character. It’s astonishing how well Vo brings the novel to a new, full life through a perspective shift. What is really exciting about this novel is the inclusion of magic and necromancy. Which is not what I expected and I don’t want to get into much because even the jacket blurb managed to not spoil anything for once. But when it says this book is magic, it is meant literally (though the writing and achievement of this novel is magical on its own merits). Early we see Jordan unlocking a magic power that is similar to those in the title story of Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. While we consider how Jordan is able to draw from old world traditions and mysticism, it becomes alarming that white middle-America Gatsby seems to have somehow accessed magic as well. What terrible deeds, ‘infernal powers,’ and dark dealings lead to this? ‘You kept the party going for Hell and for New York. You opened the doorway to all the fun...you became the lynchpin holding Hell to Earth, and how they all loved you for it.’ Gatsby’s parties seem to bewitch people. ‘Death doesn't come to Gatsby's,” went the rumor, and it might even have been true.’ He holds power over others like a vampire. If you fear this novel is getting too close to something like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies rest assured that this isn’t a classic with demons added in but utilizing dark magic as a way to further the metaphorical investigations of power, greed and human frailty. The book is more akin to the way N.K. Jemisin embodies gentrification and racism as demonic possession in The City We Became. Nghi Vo has an incredible ability to recreate the source material and blend it with her own original story in a way that successfully enhances the original in fun and thought-provoking ways. Every time I worried it might be too much, Vo demonstrated a deft hand and truly pulls off a magic of her own. Honestly, I could have done with less source material as it overly relies upon it, but it really works. This is a fantastic tribute and critique of the original novel and while there will likely be some stuffy academics crying foul, the original is not sacrosanct and Vo has more than proven herself. This novel is quite the event and full of uproarious pleasures like one of Gatsby’s grand parties. 3.5/5

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    I don’t usually care for retellings, literary or cinematic. Don’t even get me started on those endless Spider-Man remakes unless you want to hear me grumble old-codger-style about those damn hacks who cannot come up with a good original story. The only sorta-retellings I enjoy are those that are more original than derivative, those that take inspiration from the original and use it as a springboard, soar above and beyond it, make it something truly fresh and new and not just a rehash of the old I don’t usually care for retellings, literary or cinematic. Don’t even get me started on those endless Spider-Man remakes unless you want to hear me grumble old-codger-style about those damn hacks who cannot come up with a good original story. The only sorta-retellings I enjoy are those that are more original than derivative, those that take inspiration from the original and use it as a springboard, soar above and beyond it, make it something truly fresh and new and not just a rehash of the old story (Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch vs The Omen, for instance). Take these views into account as you read this review. I can’t claim to be unbiased, and why should I be? Another thing to consider is whether Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby needed a retelling — or was using it simply a clever way to sell the story, since it seems that almost everyone has read or at least heard of that literary classic? I loved the only book by Nghi Vo I’ve read so far - The Empress of Salt and Fortune - but the only reason I came to this book was Fitzgerald’s original — and I suspect I am not the only one. I like Gatsby, I like stories with magic — so I decided to try it. I even reread The Great Gatsby before starting this, for research purposes, and paid extra attention to Jordan Baker, a socialite and a golfer, maybe a liar, Daisy’s friend and Nick Carraway’s girlfriend. And maybe this would have been better if I haven’t done that, if I didn’t realize how much of the successful parts of this book was little but straight recount of Fitzgerald’s book. In “Gatsby” Jordan Baker gets a bit of a rough treatment. A single young and rich woman, a hard partyer and professional golfer who her boyfriend Nick Carraway suggests may be “incurably dishonest” — (“She wasn’t able to endure being at a disadvantage and, given this unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body.”) — but one with charm and backbone, the one who you wonder may have not been quite seen right by Nick. It’s the exchange between Jordan and Nick that’s one of my favorite paragraphs in The Great Gatsby, the one that says so much about all the careless cruel characters in that book: “You’re a rotten driver,” I protested. “Either you ought to be more careful, or you oughtn’t to drive at all.” “I am careful.” “No, you’re not.” “Well, other people are,” she said lightly. “What’s that got to do with it?” “They’ll keep out of my way,” she insisted. “It takes two to make an accident.” “Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.” “I hope I never will,” she answered. “I hate careless people. That’s why I like you.” So what do we get here, in Vo’s retelling through Jordan’s eyes? Well, have you ever thought after finishing The Great Gatsby that what this story lacked was magic and alcohol-soaked ever-present sexuality and a female gaze? Here you get all of those, and the quality of those is, sadly, uneven. And there are too many themes all jostling for attention which none of them gets enough - otherness and racism and sexism and magic and the Jazz Age. Jordan is a single woman with a career and money, who seems to have quite a bit of fun in the Roaring Twenties. Vo makes this blonde socialite WASP into a Vietnamese adoptee, adding to the hurdles stacked against her in life, hurdles that are not fully compensated for by money — although money seems to still suit Jordan as she is still cluelessly rich. “We both knew, of course, that my place in her world was tenuous at best and only growing more tenuous the older I became, but she acted as if she could wave that all away with the force of her personality and will.” And here’s what I was worried about when I first heard about this book. It is very much a *retelling* of The Great Gatsby, not a reimagining or result of inspiration. No, it follows Fitzgerald’s story to a T, except just wordier and more wistful, with a sprinkle of show-offshish tired worldliness. A few scenes are added, and a few are omitted as Jordan was not present for those in the original (although here she’s dragged to Gatsby and Daisy’s reunion because not showing that would be unacceptable), but it really is a pretty straightforward recounting of the original story, with a bit of background magic and overt sexuality sprinkled in — and what The Great Gatsby was lacking was depiction of fervent oral sex, said no one ever: “Skin’s skin, and he liked mine. His large hands curled around my thighs, and there was a kind of Middle Western, old religion fervor to how he devoured me. His people weren’t that far from the tent revivals that spoke of angels like spinning chariot wheels in the sky and demons under every apple tree, and he chased my pleasure like it might be his very own salvation.” Those Fitzgerald’s scenes that were skipped since Jordan wasn’t there remain important although not featured, because of course you are expected to be familiar with the original novel before approaching the retelling. Already knowing Gatsby’s origins and the dynamic between Gatsby, Tom and Nick, and Tom’s mistress Myrtle Wilson — all these are not strictly necessary here but you are still expected to know them, to see those details in the story, to understand this world already built for us and Nghi Vo by someone else. And the best, most memorable scenes are those recounted straight from Fitzgerald, with all the best lines from that book and a few expanded additions here and there. Perhaps if you haven’t read The Great Gatsby or had forgotten it sufficiently (which I haven’t since I reread “Gatsby” just a few days ago), then some of Fitzgerald’s brilliance could be seen as belonging to this story — but really, it’s the original shining through. The non-Fitzgerald scenes are much less memorable, and the worldbuilding for those is not enough to sustain them. Yes, that damn worldbuilding. For a “realistic” book the task is usually simpler — we know the world since we live in it, so the details and underpinnings of it are known to us. In fantasy, when things not from our usual reality are introduced, they need to feel like they belong in the world rather than being a set decoration. That’s where I think Vo does not quite succeed — because all that magic is superfluously shoehorned into a story that goes along without needing it, and even after finishing the entire book I still have just the vaguest idea of how it works in the structure of this world or how big of a deal it is. That fantasy part, that damn unnecessary magic. Jordan can do magic, and magic seems to be intended as an organic part of this world — but sadly, it seems to be paper-thin, an unintended pun on Jordan’s paper magic which didn’t even occur to me until after I typed this sentence. Regardless of whether it’s fantasy, I like when things make sense and follow the internal logic of the world depicted, but here there’s not much of it, it’s just randomly sprinkled here and there for no obvious reasons. Demoniac blood drinks and soulless Gatsby and living paper cutouts abound - but the worldbuilding is paper-thin, other than what came straight out of Fitzgerald’s source novel — and on that thinly built landscape the magic does not take root well. It’s just glanced over until we out of the blue get paragraphs like the one below, feeling jarringly unnecessary as they keep being thrust upon us without buildup or much internal logic because it’s only brought up when needed for a pretty sentence: “He had sold his soul, and in exchange for the power to be a man worthy of Daisy Fay, he had created a way station for Hell, a little piece of the infernal in West Egg where the demoniac never stopped flowing and where no one ever noticed if someone disappeared and came back strange and hollow, or never came back at all. Hell was as expansionist as France or England—and Jay Gatsby, with his singular focus and ability to harness the power of human desire, was the perfect envoy to gain them a foothold in the world above.” But — seriously, until this paragraph 81% in, there was very little indication of all that, amidst all the retelling of the story that was told before. If this wasn’t explicitly spelled out just now, it would not have been important in this book at all. That’s unimpressive. That’s barely even set dressing. Jay Gatsby is from his very first appearance a villain in this story, for no particular reason except that Jordan dislikes him greatly and he’s Jordan’s rival for Nick’s affections. His evilness is reaffirmed in the end — we are told so in the end, that is — but I never got that when actually reading his scenes; what I saw was a bit envious and irrational dislike of him (and yet no such dislike for Daisy and Tom - which makes me wonder about Jordan’s shrewdness), by a woman who seemed a bit patronizingly condescending in her interactions even with Nick whom she supposedly cared about. And Jordan, despite all that sexual agency and added background of ethnic tensions and poorly developed paper magic and self-indulgent socialite life, seems actually a bit more superficial - but much more melodramatic - than her role in “Gatsby” was. She was still an entitled and a bit shallow privileged socialite — but the one who expected you to feel for her plight as the privilege was a bit less than what others had. In short, Jordan Baker comes across as exhausting, but cluelessly so. The writing itself is skilled and the imagery is vivid (it’s Nghi Vo who wrote superb The Empress of Salt and Fortune, after all) but it often veers into a bit of melodramatically overwrought territory. And had I not had Fitzgerald’s prose so fresh in my memory, I probably would have not noticed it so much — but that’s the risk you are running if you rewrite a well-known story. And of course, that obligatory twist at the end. No, it does not make sense; it comes from nowhere and to me rings false (unless you assume that anyone who challenges Jordan Baker’s worldview is either evil or (view spoiler)[paper cutout (hide spoiler)] . But if Jordan’s story had actually started there, at the end, inspired by the events of “Gatsby” rather than being a melodramatic magicky “retelling” that falls short of the original, I think it could have had potential as an inspiration behind someone that’s more than a simple retreading of laid out paths. As my inner crabby codger would say, go write something that’s really fresh and new, don’t count on something already there to give you wings and make you fly when all you add is a perspective shift and vague pretty magic. Until then, as it stands, it seems a bit like those pretty but insubstantial parties of Gatsby’s that apparently our Jordan so detested. Too much glitter and glamour but not enough substance. It’s trying too hard, like poor Gatsby did — and it’s not enough. Unimpressed 2.5 stars. Nghi Vo did much better in her novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune. If like me, you disliked this “Gatsby” retelling but want to see what Vo can do with original material, read that one instead, you won’t regret it. Also, if you haven’t read The Great Gatsby, do it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    R.F. Kuang

    This one's dazzling. This one's dazzling.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alix Harrow

    this is the kind of book that drowns you and leaves you grateful. sweltering, sexy, subversive, smart (look i have an alliteration problem), atmospheric, haunting, dreamy. paper magic. summer in the city. complex, fraught identities negotiated in secret speakeasies and gin-soaked parlors. it was so GOOD.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Nghi Vo’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” is completely ridiculous, and I love it with the passion of a thousand burning hearts. Not only does Vo capture the timbre of Fitzgerald’s lush prose, but she follows the trajectory of the novel’s contrails into another realm. This is a version of “The Great Gatsby” in which partygoers drink demon blood, sorcery twists the beams of reality, and Jay Gatsby is a bisexual vampire. Finally, the story makes sense. To read the rest of this review, go to The Wash Nghi Vo’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” is completely ridiculous, and I love it with the passion of a thousand burning hearts. Not only does Vo capture the timbre of Fitzgerald’s lush prose, but she follows the trajectory of the novel’s contrails into another realm. This is a version of “The Great Gatsby” in which partygoers drink demon blood, sorcery twists the beams of reality, and Jay Gatsby is a bisexual vampire. Finally, the story makes sense. To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    this cover is f**king stunning, whoever at Tor in charge of all these recent covers is actually doing God's work ** A REIMAGINING OF THE GREAT GATSBY BUT WITH JORDAN BAKER (my queen, my fave) AS A QUEER ASIAN-AMERICAN HEROINE?? Tor is having so many good 2021 releases holy hell this cover is f**king stunning, whoever at Tor in charge of all these recent covers is actually doing God's work ** A REIMAGINING OF THE GREAT GATSBY BUT WITH JORDAN BAKER (my queen, my fave) AS A QUEER ASIAN-AMERICAN HEROINE?? Tor is having so many good 2021 releases holy hell

  13. 5 out of 5

    ale ♡

    The Great Gatsby retelling with a queer Asian MC? Count me in. Holy shit. Where do I sign????

  14. 5 out of 5

    Boston

    I’m not quite sure how to feel about this book. On one hand I truly think Nghi Vo wrote the story better than F Scott Fitzgerald himself. It was lyrical and atmospheric just like everything else Nghi Vo has done. On the other hand, as a reimagining, I was a little underwhelmed. The majority was the same story, but just written better. The addition of magic seemed a little random and was never really explained. That said, I did like the perspective of Jordan being Vietnamese and how it affected h I’m not quite sure how to feel about this book. On one hand I truly think Nghi Vo wrote the story better than F Scott Fitzgerald himself. It was lyrical and atmospheric just like everything else Nghi Vo has done. On the other hand, as a reimagining, I was a little underwhelmed. The majority was the same story, but just written better. The addition of magic seemed a little random and was never really explained. That said, I did like the perspective of Jordan being Vietnamese and how it affected her in this setting. I also really liked that the characters were queer. At the end of the day, I’d say if you’ve never read Gatsby or don’t remember much of it, then you’d probably really like this and I recommend it regardless of my rating. *Thank you to the publisher who sent me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

  15. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    “When I looked at famous Jay Gatsby, soul gone and some terrible engine he called love driving him now, I could see that for him, the world was always ending. For him, it was all a wrack and a ruin, and he had no idea why the rest of us weren’t screaming.” So What’s It About? Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, a “When I looked at famous Jay Gatsby, soul gone and some terrible engine he called love driving him now, I could see that for him, the world was always ending. For him, it was all a wrack and a ruin, and he had no idea why the rest of us weren’t screaming.” So What’s It About? Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her. But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how. What I Thought A significant number of reviews for this book seem to be largely about how much the reviewer hated The Great Gatsby in high school, which is pretty funny. I happen to be entirely neutral about The Great Gatsby, for what it’s worth. I recognize why it’s an American classic objectively, and I don’t especially love it or hate it beyond that. As for The Chosen and the Beautiful, it is indeed very beautiful...but I can’t help but feel that it could have been so much more. When I read retellings my question is always “Why did the author choose to tell the story this way?” In this case I think the goal was to write a retelling of a book about the falsity of the American Dream while expanding on the original book’s understanding of what is false and wrong about the U.S. With that in mind it makes a great deal of sense to tell the story from the perspective of a queer immigrant woman of color, but I can’t help but feel that the mere existence of a Jordan with this identity doesn’t go nearly far enough in making that point if it is indeed the point the book is trying to make. Jordan herself is a pretty interesting character to spend time with - and note that I say “interesting” and not “enjoyable.” As she is in the original story, she is cynical and patronizing and largely indifferent to the world, but in this case I think the justification is that the veneer protects her from being a racialized outsider who is constantly othered and reminded of her difference. At the same time there is part of her that feels differently - take for instance the reflection that “in truth I felt less special in Chinatown, and that made me dislike it.” There are times when Jordan’s world-weary ways and careless reveling in excess can be extremely tiresome, but I don’t think that’s a weakness of the text at all until it tries to make points about feminism at the same time. Like, it’s not exactly endearing for your protagonist to say “[Nick] called me careless because he didn’t have to words to sort out how jealous he was of my money and my freedom and how very few people in the world could act as I did,” but what is even more annoying is that Jordan goes on to say that she didn’t feel the need to explain herself to Nick because as a man he couldn’t understand that women can’t really be completely careless because they can get raped. I had to reread this section a few times because it felt like such a strange point to make while what Nick was criticizing about Jordan had nothing to do with her behavior around men. In The Chosen and the Beautiful, Gatsby is depicted as a villain. I didn’t really like this change at first because I couldn’t figure out why it was the case. Because he sold his soul and works for Hell? Because he is Jordan’s competition for Nick’s affection? Given that the magical aspect of the story is so loosely incorporated/explored and Jordan treats Nick with a patronizing kind of tolerance for most of the book neither of these really ring true to me. I think the most satisfying answer that I came up with has to do with Gatsby’s feelings about Daisy - he sees her as the pinnacle of his goals and dreams and in that process he has turned her into an idol to be possessed instead of a person. As someone who cares for Daisy herself, Jordan must abhor this. I do think that this would work better if Daisy was somehow reinterpreted the same way Gatsby and Jordan are, but her depiction rings fairly true to what I remember of Daisy in the original book - effortlessly charming and delightfully frivolous, flighty and insubstantial and shallow. There’s one scene where Jordan creates a paper figure of Daisy to go to a party when the real Daisy is too distraught to go, and later Daisy bashes it in with a shovel to kill it. I liked this scene because I thought it represented Daisy destroying the hollow performative part of her that everybody expects, but this was really the only scene of that kind in the book. The other complexity is that in this book Jordan loves Daisy which Daisy certainly exploits, and again explains part of why Jordan hates Gatsby so much. Other reviewers have mixed opinions about the inclusion of magic in this book, with some critics stating that it feels rather shallow and poorly incorporated into the world-building. I’m by no means someone who needs my magic to be laid out in a complex system - quite the opposite - but I’m inclined to agree that while a lot of the imagery is incredibly lovely and captivating, I’m not quite sure what purpose the magic serves in the story. Maybe it’s to be seen as part of the shallow luxury of the American Dream and the class conflicts of the world, but I don’t necessarily know if the way it’s included here really augments the way the original story went about making this point. Jordan’s paper magic is certainly about her heritage that she was prevented from knowing by her adopted family, and which was exploited by rich Americans (represented by Daisy in this case) - but at the end of the story she reclaims it to use as her own and learn more about. Other readers have mentioned that the writing is absolutely lovely, and it certainly is. Vo has a true talent in that regard, as she does for vivid imagery and lush descriptions. In this case I think she went a little overboard as the endless descriptions of dresses and drinks and parties and sex could definitely have been cut back make room for other things instead.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Romie

    what a time to be queer and asian. look at us win.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    I do really love the source material for this retelling, so I am happy to report this is a great example where you can love the original and the retelling for different reasons because of their different strengths. Vo's writing is so dreamy and atmospheric, and while I'm not sure I connected emotionally with the book overall as strongly as I wanted to, I did really admire the craftsmanship on display. Come for the gorgeous cover, stay for the nuanced exploration of a queer Asian character in 192 I do really love the source material for this retelling, so I am happy to report this is a great example where you can love the original and the retelling for different reasons because of their different strengths. Vo's writing is so dreamy and atmospheric, and while I'm not sure I connected emotionally with the book overall as strongly as I wanted to, I did really admire the craftsmanship on display. Come for the gorgeous cover, stay for the nuanced exploration of a queer Asian character in 1920s Long Island.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

    I loved this book! more in-depth review to come closer to its release date!

  19. 4 out of 5

    luce

    / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / 3 ½ stars “He wanted something agreeable, something sweeter around the edges, but I was never very good at sweet.” This is one of those rare cases where I ended up preferring a retelling to the original. I've only read The Great Gatsby once and at the risk of incurring the wrath & contempt of Fitzgerald aficionados, I did not much care for it. Not only does Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful give new dimensions to Fitzgerald's characters but she als / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / 3 ½ stars “He wanted something agreeable, something sweeter around the edges, but I was never very good at sweet.” This is one of those rare cases where I ended up preferring a retelling to the original. I've only read The Great Gatsby once and at the risk of incurring the wrath & contempt of Fitzgerald aficionados, I did not much care for it. Not only does Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful give new dimensions to Fitzgerald's characters but she also brings magic into the picture. In Vo's retelling Jordan Baker is Vietnamese American, queer, and can dabble with magic. While she does move in the same rarefied circles as her friends, she knows that many doors are not open to her. She's often treated as an 'exotic' attraction or made to feel as if she's one of 'good ones'. Jordan spends her days partying, drinking, visiting supernatural locales where she can make out with boys and girls alike. As with the original Jordan becomes embroiled in Gatsby and Daisy's 'doomed' love affair. “He had come to Gatsby’s party, he had eaten the food, he had fallen under Gatsby’s spell. It was already too late." While Vo imbues her version of this classic with plenty of original elements (which in my eyes improve the original), the storyline itself does stick to the one from The Great Gatsby. Personally, I wish Vo had strayed away from the original source more as I believe that this could have made the story more surprising (especially for those who are already familiar with this story). While at first, I did enjoy the magical aspect too it felt a bit shoehorned in, at times seeming largely forgotten by the narrative (so that when demons or whatnot are mentioned i would be like, say what now?). These 'criticisms' aside I was dazzled by Vo's utterly gorgeous writing. Her style reflects the glittering spaces in which these characters move in, but through Jordan's eyes—someone who only superficially shares the privileges that the people she socialises with take so much for granted—we only glimpse it for what it truly is, a pretty facade. Vo's descriptions about this society are certainly sumptuous. Readers will be able to picture with ease the dresses, people, and environments that populate Jordan's world. I loved the almost palpable tension between the various characters, their shifting alliances and small betrayals will make us wonder who is exactly playing who. Vo's Jordan is far more nuanced than Fitzgerald's one, and I appreciated her insights into the so-called 1920s American elite. “What a broken, brittle people, I thought” I actually found Vo's Nick and Daisy far more sympathetic in this retelling. While Vo doesn't sugarcoat their behaviour or attitudes, she's also willing to be empathetic towards them. The novel's biggest strength lies in Vo's writing. I know I have already said so but it is truly beguiling. There was something really aesthetically pleasing about her prose. The ending felt a wee bit rushed and I think that this novel could have been easily longer. Anyway, if I ever think of Gatsby & Co. again I won't be thinking of Fitzgerald's ones (sorry, not sorry). Vo's portrayal of obsessive love is truly on point. I can't wait to read whatever Vo writes next. If you enjoy books by Libba Bray, Catherynne M. Valente, and or Cat Winters, you should definitely give The Chosen and the Beautiful. There is drama, one or two heartbreaks, bedazzling parties, and a sprinkle of magic. Vo's characters are a perfect blend of charming and unappealing (one second you will find yourself liking them, the next you will want to throttle them) and her writing is next levels of morgeous.

  20. 5 out of 5

    charlotte,

    On my blog. Rep: Vietnamese bi/pan mc, biracial Chinese bi/pan character, biracial Black Native American (Choctaw?) character Galley provided by publisher No one is more disappointed than me about this turn of events. I rated both of Nghi Vo’s novellas five whole stars. I really thought I would love this book equally. Instead — perhaps a little predictably, I’ll admit — my dislike of The Great Gatsby won out. A little background first as to why I hate Gatsby quite so much, though. And it primari On my blog. Rep: Vietnamese bi/pan mc, biracial Chinese bi/pan character, biracial Black Native American (Choctaw?) character Galley provided by publisher No one is more disappointed than me about this turn of events. I rated both of Nghi Vo’s novellas five whole stars. I really thought I would love this book equally. Instead — perhaps a little predictably, I’ll admit — my dislike of The Great Gatsby won out. A little background first as to why I hate Gatsby quite so much, though. And it primarily comes down to studying it to death at GCSE (8 years ago — this will be important). I just hated the damn thing so much, and it didn’t help that I forced myself to read it ten times so that I knew it well enough in the exam to know when everything happened and where to find supporting quotes. So, back to The Chosen and the Beautiful. I think my major problem here was that the story tracked incredibly close to the original. I know, I know — it’s a retelling! you cry. But there’s levels to this. A retelling can be very loose, where entire plotlines change slightly. Or it can keep as close to the original as this one. Brief interlude here to say: if you have read Gatsby but don’t remember it well enough and are thinking of rereading, don’t. I found that, knowing the story as well as I did, it took all the tension out of it. I knew exactly what was going to happen and it didn’t work well. If you haven’t read Gatsby and are wondering if you should, I would say read the first paragraph or so of the Wikipedia summary, or read the blurb. Enough to get you an idea of what the book is about (because you do get thrown straight in with this, and I can see it being confusing), but don’t read anything about the ending. Let this be a surprise for you. But back to my point. The fact that this was a strict retelling (barring one or two aspects) worked against me here because, despite last reading Gatsby 8 years ago, I still knew it well enough to be able to spot when scenes, and even exact lines of dialogue, were lifted from it. Now, I don’t mean to frame this as an inherently bad thing — if you think about Pride and Prejudice retellings, a lot start with a riff on the opening line of that — but my problem was it threw me straight out of the story and into hating Gatsby over again as a 15 year old. Again, on this, your mileage may vary. I felt that the story was at its best when it distanced itself from directly retelling, but it always came back to it. In addition to this, one of the major selling points for me on this book — the fantastical aspect — seemed sort of limited to adding a different kind of flavouring to the book. In the sense that, now it’s a historical fantasy, but that doesn’t really change the plot in any meaningful way. Again, I think this is a personal point because you mightn’t mind that about it. I did. Because, like I said, it comes back to predictability. If the magical aspect had had the effect of changing the way the story went, then I think I would have appreciated it more. As it was, I didn’t feel as though it added anything — there were long passages that went by without mention of them, and I neither really felt like the world was any different for it, nor really missed it. But. If you are not plagued by a hatred of Gatsby, combined with an unfortunately good memory for almost all parts of it, then you will enjoy this book. Nghi Vo is clearly an accomplished writer and is able to mimic seamlessly F. Scott Fitzgerald in one respect, while also improving on his writing (it was so much less pretentious and more accessible than his). That is, if you don’t know which lines are his and which not, you will hardly notice. Honestly, Nghi Vo’s writing and the twists she put on the characters is what kept me going. While I couldn’t enjoy this enough to rate it over three stars, I did still like it. And I would still recommend it (unlike The Great Gatsby). All of which to say that, unless you have an equal hatred of The Great Gatsby, I think you will love this book. And if you enjoyed Nghi Vo’s novellas already, you will especially love it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Meh. The best I can say about this is that I liked it more than The Great Gatsby, on which it's loosely based. I might have liked it more if it wasn't soooo much about straight relationships when I was expecting this to be more queer-oriented. Not a bad read but not all that enjoyable for me either. Meh. The best I can say about this is that I liked it more than The Great Gatsby, on which it's loosely based. I might have liked it more if it wasn't soooo much about straight relationships when I was expecting this to be more queer-oriented. Not a bad read but not all that enjoyable for me either.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Althea | themoonwholistens ☾

    magic and a queer asian-american great gatsby??? WHY WAS I NOT AWARE!!! @publishers please do not stop with these beautiful covers

  23. 4 out of 5

    Starlah

    CW: abortion, allusions to self-harm, cheating, racism, homophobia, internalized racism and homophobia, microaggressions, death The Great Gatsby retold from the perspective of Jordan Baker, this time, a queer, Asian, adopted socialite. First, the writing is absolutely beautiful. Something I expected having read Nghi Vo's novellas. Her style is lyrical, whimsical, and dream-like which I think really pairs well with the 1920s, jazz era, extravagance. I also appreciated how queer this book was and ho CW: abortion, allusions to self-harm, cheating, racism, homophobia, internalized racism and homophobia, microaggressions, death The Great Gatsby retold from the perspective of Jordan Baker, this time, a queer, Asian, adopted socialite. First, the writing is absolutely beautiful. Something I expected having read Nghi Vo's novellas. Her style is lyrical, whimsical, and dream-like which I think really pairs well with the 1920s, jazz era, extravagance. I also appreciated how queer this book was and how nearly every character was bisexual or pansexual. I enjoyed the interactions between all the characters and the exploration of all their toxic obsessions with one another. All of the characters were problematic to an extent and unlikable, but that was sort of the point. I almost forgot this book was a fantasy, and I still hesitate to call it such. The magic system in this is very soft. Nghi Vo's writing really made the lines between reality, magic, and dreams blurred. And because of that, there are times while reading this where I felt confused and that confusion was definitely left open-ended. And I can appreciate an author having enough confidence in their readers to be able to come to their own conclusions. Overall, I'm unfortunately left feeling rather indifferent about this book. There were certainly elements done well and that resonated with me, but overall, I think I am just very indifferent with the Gatsby story and this novel didn't really do enough to change that.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Intoxicating and atmospheric, The Chosen and the Beautiful is one of the best things I've read this year and is a fabulous debut novel by Nghi Vo. With The Great Gatsby entering the public domain in 2021, it seems likely that numerous retellings, prequels and sequels will emerge: Vo's bold, spirited storytelling is likely to set the standard. I'd go as far as saying The Chosen and the Beautiful demonstrates why the end of copyright and passing into public domain is a good thing in litera Intoxicating and atmospheric, The Chosen and the Beautiful is one of the best things I've read this year and is a fabulous debut novel by Nghi Vo. With The Great Gatsby entering the public domain in 2021, it seems likely that numerous retellings, prequels and sequels will emerge: Vo's bold, spirited storytelling is likely to set the standard. I'd go as far as saying The Chosen and the Beautiful demonstrates why the end of copyright and passing into public domain is a good thing in literature: Vo grounds us in Fitzgerald's world and stays faithful to the source text while simultaneously immersing us in her incarnation of Jordan Baker and the lives of Daisy, Nick, Gatsby and Tom. It's a tremendously impressive feat, and all the more that I didn't notice just how impressive it was while reading it, I was so engrossed in and enthralled by Vo's narrative. ...it was a crowded summer, and it was not until later, when I could thread the steps to disaster together like glass beads on a string, that those times stood out at all. Vo's Jordan Baker is the linchpin of the novel, and as a character and a fulcrum, she is fascinating. Jordan is an "adopted" member of the Baker family, of Vietnamese heritage, part of Louisville and New York high society but also slightly apart from it. This allows Vo to explore in depth some of the subtext of The Great Gatsby: the themes about class struggles, xenophobia, racial discrimination, and white supremacy that are lightly threaded in Fitzgerald's work get a full exploration. Jordan's summer with Nick and the doomed pairing of Gatsby and Daisy is thrown in relief against the passage of the Manchester Act, fictional but mirroring the acts of 1921 and 1924 that effectively banned immigration from Asia. The more overt Fitzgerald themes of hedonism and the liberation of the Jazz Age are also explored, some turned on their head, some just given new dimensionality. The cautionary tale of the The Great Gatsby is still intact looking at how East Egg engages with black magic and demons in their pursuit of pleasure and fun. But Vo also critiques the caution as Jordan and other characters (no spoilers) are queer: the social restrictions of the 1920s and the potentially deadly consequences of being simply who you are, with those restraints most firmly enforced on women, belie the free flapper image so strongly associated with Fitzgerald. Now there was a monstrous want there, remorseless and relentless, and it made my stomach turn that it thought itself love. Daisy, as pretty as she was, was never sweet either, though she sparkled so bright it was easy to think she was. It was easy to think that Daisy was many things. All of this would be admirable and thought-provoking, but The Chosen and the Beautiful is so much more than that! We see new sides and depths to Daisy, backstory that complicates the Fitzgerald portrayal while still in keeping with her character as we know it from the original. Nick, the narrator for Fitzgerald, is given a lot of examination by Jordan and his personality, role in the story, and surprising twist near the end were so well-done I can't say more for fear of spoiling it. Gatsby is less hidden and yet more opaque and sinister yet sincere in Vo's retelling. But the novel rightly belongs to Jordan. She's bold and fun, quick witted and reading people and social situations with grace and sharpness, but she's also dealing with being a bit unmoored, never fully home or at ease. She's incredibly self-actualized and much more solid than the other characters, which is coupled with a journey of self-exploration and growth to strength and true confidence that I was rooting for throughout. And Vo's magical infusions to the story just add to the atmosphere: it was so seductive and sensual, just as Gatsby's parties must have been, allowing the reader to be drawn in and forget the very real, urgent issues facing all of the characters in 1922 (and all of us now). Vo has a way with description and dialogue which propelled me forward but enchanted me on each page: swimmers in Gatsby's pool take the forms of carp and glint gold and vermillion beneath the water before they resurface as human, Daisy and Jordan's dark adventure in Louisville is thrilling and powerful. And this despite knowing how it would all end of course: the journey was truly the point even if I was so interested to see how Vo would draw our destination. Under the wrack and wreck of what had come before, the sky was new, and I reached for it with a yearning eager hand. I finished the novel both completely satisfied and spellbound but also wanting so much more. A beautiful, beautiful book. 5 stars, highly recommended to fans of literary fiction with touches of magic and fantasy, and I can't wait to read more from Vo!

  25. 4 out of 5

    booksandzoe

    How can I sum up in a measly book review how this book touched me? How beautiful it was? How this book has grabbed my "favorite books of all time" list in a chokehold, and said "I'm about to give you a book SO GOOD it'll blow literally every book you've ever read out of the water." I have no idea how this review will do this book even an inch is justice, but I will try. The Chosen and the Beautiful is a magical realism retelling of The Great Gatsby following Jordan Baker, the young socialite girl How can I sum up in a measly book review how this book touched me? How beautiful it was? How this book has grabbed my "favorite books of all time" list in a chokehold, and said "I'm about to give you a book SO GOOD it'll blow literally every book you've ever read out of the water." I have no idea how this review will do this book even an inch is justice, but I will try. The Chosen and the Beautiful is a magical realism retelling of The Great Gatsby following Jordan Baker, the young socialite girlfriend to Nick Carroway in the original story of The Great Gatsby. Now, this is no small claim, but this book blew any word F Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote to pieces. Maybe I'm being a hater, but there is more substance and beauty in a single paragraph of this book than you will find in the entirety of The Great Gatsby. In this book, Jordan Baker is a young, queer, Vietnamese socialite. The Chosen and the Beautiful acts as her origin story; an in depth character study of her motivations, inner thoughts, her brains. Jordan Baker is smart. Despite the constant and very normalized racism all around her, she has made her way to high society America. This book shows how ever move she makes is calculated, how she has molded herself into greatness in a way Gatsby never could. The queer representation is great. Gatsby and Nick have their own very gay love affair, which... we all knew was going on from literally any subtext interpretations of the original. Jordan is also queer, and the book does a fantastic job showing how her queerness affects the various facets of her life, how it's used against her at times, and how she uses it to further herself at others. I also love how all depictions of sexuality in this book are purposeful, and not only fuel the plot but also give deep insight into the motivations of our cast and their relationships to others. I truly can't recommend this enough. If you hated The Great Gatsby, read this. If you loved The Great Gatsby, read this. If you've never read The Great Gatsby, STILL READ THIS. The plot doesn't stray *much* from the original, but it's a very different, and infinitely more interesting story. I wish it went of forever so that I could've never put it down, and I'm my way to read every other work of Vo's now. I listened to this story via audiobook (thank you netgalley!) and loved the narration. Highly recommend!

  26. 4 out of 5

    julianna ➹

    update: i finished and i had no idea what was happening the entire time, it was great longer review to come....... maybe..... tbh just trying to comprehend what went on rn... ALSO THIS IS THE FIRST BOOK I READ IN LITERALLY TWO WEEKS AAAAAAHHH // when i realize that i'm reading a retelling of a novel that i never even finished for school 👁👄👁 (but it's queer and asian soooooooo i would say infinitely better) // buddy read with m & m (live image of them shown below) update: i finished and i had no idea what was happening the entire time, it was great longer review to come....... maybe..... tbh just trying to comprehend what went on rn... ALSO THIS IS THE FIRST BOOK I READ IN LITERALLY TWO WEEKS AAAAAAHHH // when i realize that i'm reading a retelling of a novel that i never even finished for school 👁👄👁 (but it's queer and asian soooooooo i would say infinitely better) // buddy read with m & m (live image of them shown below)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    I was so excited for this new release and I'm sorry to say I was quite disappointed with it. The novel is a very close retelling of The Great Gatsby , but here everything is told through Jordan's point of view. Something I truly appreciated in this book was the representation that was included, Jordan is a Vietnamese girl and a lot of the characters are queer. I was drawn into this book because I thought it would include some kind of magic and I was looking forward to seeing it in action, but w I was so excited for this new release and I'm sorry to say I was quite disappointed with it. The novel is a very close retelling of The Great Gatsby , but here everything is told through Jordan's point of view. Something I truly appreciated in this book was the representation that was included, Jordan is a Vietnamese girl and a lot of the characters are queer. I was drawn into this book because I thought it would include some kind of magic and I was looking forward to seeing it in action, but we only got a few glimpses of what could have been a very interesting storyline. Even though I didn't enjoy this retelling, I did appreciate the author's writing style and that is why I might check out other books by Nghi Vo in the future.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo I don't even know how to start this review! The atmosphere has a strange vibe to it. It's written for a world in the 1920's but not quite our world. Magic and otherworldly gifts are known. Racism is the same. The girl of the story is of Asian decent, has some magic, is rich, and can see ghosts, make things real out of paper, and float. It's a story of her and her friends, their relationships, and decisions they make. It's strange, intriguing, entertaining, a The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo I don't even know how to start this review! The atmosphere has a strange vibe to it. It's written for a world in the 1920's but not quite our world. Magic and otherworldly gifts are known. Racism is the same. The girl of the story is of Asian decent, has some magic, is rich, and can see ghosts, make things real out of paper, and float. It's a story of her and her friends, their relationships, and decisions they make. It's strange, intriguing, entertaining, and captivating! I wanted to stop reading but I just couldn't! Things had to be on pause while I read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    THAT COVER!!!!!!!!!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    - ̗̀ jess ̖́-

    i saw queer asian great gatsby with magic and have never been so excited in my life

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