There’s a dreamlike quality to this story that’s difficult to fully depict but impossible to forget. A wistfulness for bygone summer days; a bittersweet nostalgia through rose-tinted lens.
Vo reimagines The Great Gatsby from Jordan Baker’s perspective as a queer Vietnamese immigrant in the most elite circles of 1920s American society, where she existed in a liminal space—a borderline between acceptable and not. Contrasting her is Daisy, her dearest friend caught in the middle of two men’s distorted affections.
Then there’s our former narrator Nick, naive and bright-eyed. And of course, Jay Gatsby, who sold his soul to the devil for power and prestige. Beneath the glitter and glamour, the opulence and dazzling lights, the disarming smiles and lavish parties, was an empty and perhaps monstrous man, relentless in his pursuit of Daisy. Therein lies the tragedy of it all. Multifaceted characters in all their bright and flawed glory, tangled together in hallowed golden halls.
Vo captured Fitzgerald’s melancholic tone so well while weaving in nuanced themes of sexuality and race. I would’ve loved to see more of the magical aspect—Jordan’s ability to bring paper cuttings to life and the infernal pacts with demons. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this story immensely and it’s one of my favorite reads so far this year.
The Chosen and the Beautiful is out today!
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The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
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.